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The Bulgarian Exarchate was established on 28 February 1870 with a Firman from the sultan as a result of the long struggle of the Bulgarian people for church independence from the Greek Patriarchate. This struggle began in 1824 in the towns of Vratsa, Skopje and Samokov, but most active in it was the Bulgarian community in Constantinople, a great part of which were Macedonian Bulgarians.

The Firman granted the Exarchate the following eparchies: Ruschuk, Silistra, Tirnovo, Lovech, Vratsa, Vidin, Sofia, Samokov, Kjustendil, Nish, Pirot and Veles. It also decided that other eparchies could acknowledge the Exarchate if 2/3 of their Christian inhabitants demanded this. A plebiscite was conducted in Ohrid, Bitola and Skopje eparchies where the overwhelming majority of the population chose to join the Exarchate. There was also a demand for a plebiscite from the Salonica Bulgarians but it was not carried out. The Exarchate was pressing for a plebiscite in the Debar, Strumitsa and Kukush (Poljanino) eparchies when the Bulgarian insurections of 1875 and 1876 broke out. They and the Russo - Turkish war of 1877-78 exposed the Bulgarians in the eyes of the Turks. Therefore the vote could not be completed in Southern Macedonia and, where it had been completed, bishops were not appointed to all of those eparchies (only Skopje and Ohrid). In the course of the war the Bulgarian Exarch Antim I was exiled in Asia Minor and replaced with Josif (1877). The bishops of the eparchies that remained in Turkish hands after the war (Skopje, Veles, Ohrid) were driven away by the authorities.

The attemp to restore them in 1884-85 failed on account of the resistance of the Patriarchate, of Greece and of Serbia. Only in 1890 bishops could be appointed in Skopje and Ohrid. Then followed Veles and Nevrokop (1894) and Bitola, Debar and Strumitsa (1897). The other nine Bulgarian eparchies in the Ottoman empire (Adrianople, Salonica, Drama, Serres, Melnik, Kukush, Vodena, Maglen and Kostur) never saw Bulgarian bishops but only Exarchate deputies who looked after the schools and represented the Bulgarian population of the region before the authorities.

More prominent Bulgarian bishops who came from Macedonia were Partenij Zografski of Poljanino (born in Galichnik near Debar), Panaret of Plovdiv (born in the village of Patele near Lerin), Natanail of Ohrid and Plovdiv (born in Kuchevishta, Skopje), Meletij of Sofia (born in Strumitsa) and Metodij of Stara Zagora (born in Prilep).

We have not discussed the here, but the fact that they equally participated in them together with the Moesians and the Thracians and that they willingly joined the Exarchate testifies to their national self-identification.

Sultan’s Ferman for the establishment of the Bulgarian Exarchate.

which establish the Bulgarian Exarchate at Constantinople. - At first the Bulgarian people demanded the right of electing themselves their own bishops, who should have to belong to the Bulgarian nationality too. The first towns to declare such desire were Uscub (Skopje) and Samokov (in the year 1833). But the Greek Patriarchate was decidedly opposed to it and the controversy took two new forms: the demand of the Bulgarian Bishops was increased with the desire for religious service of their own and schools of their own, the Greek Bishops in the Bulgarian Eparchies were openly and violently persecuted. This happened in many towns of Bulgaria, Thracia and Macedonia. The Ferman of the Sultan relating to the establishment of the Bulgarian Exarchate, expressly denominated in the first paragraph of the 10-th article as Bulgarian the following Eparchies: Rustschuk, Silistra, Varna, Schumen, Tirnovo, Lovetsch, Vratza, Vidin, Sofia, Kiustendil, Samokov, Nisch, Pirot and Veless; the second paragraph of the same article decides that other Eparchies too should be allowed to acknowledge the Exarchie if at least 2/3 of their Christian inhabitants should demand this. According to this second paragraph of the Ferman a "people's-vote" was made by the Turkish authorities under control of the Greek Patriarchate. This „people's-vote" proved that the largest part of Macedonia wanted to acknowledge the Bulgarian Exarchate, whereupon bishops were appointed for Uscub, Ochrida and Monastir; (for Veless, expressly named in the Ferman, such appointment had already taken place). But soon after this occurred the Bulgarian insurrections of 1875-76, which were followed by the Russo-Turkish war, which events exposed the Bulgarians in the eyes of the Turks. Unfortunately the „people's-vote" could not be completed in the southern part of Macedonia and, where it was completed, Bulgarian Bishops were not appointed in all of these Eparchies; and where such had tried to go, they were thence driven away by the authorities. The attempts made 1884/1885 to send Bulgarian Bishops in Macedonia failed on account of the protest of the Greek Patriarchate, of Serbia and of Greece. Soon after came the union of the two Bulgarias which newly compromised the Bulgarians in the eyes of the Turks. Only in the year 1890, new Bulgarian Bishops were appointed at Uscub and at Ochrida; in the year 1894 bishops came to Veless and Nevrokop, and 1897 to Monastir, Debar and Strumitza. The other Eparchies never had any Bulgarian Bishops. The Turkish Government only allowed the Bulgarian clergy of these Eparchies to represent the Bulgarians before the local authorities and to manage their own school-matters.

The white-hatched places on the map denote those Eparchies that did not get Bulgarian Bishops.

I. Sultan ’s Ferman for the establishment of a Bulgarian Exarchate.

..But in spite of all this we observed with regret the disputes and controversies which contrary to our good will, have lately arisen between the Bulgarians of the Orthodox faith and the Greek Patriarchal, i.e. concerning the relations between the Bulgarian archbishops, bishops, priests, the Bulgarian Church and the Patriarchate.""the Sultan’s decree allowed a free referendum and when the people of Macedonia with a majority of over two thirds accepted the Bulgarian Exarchate as their own".


It is more than obvious that the Turkish statistics and documents explicitly referred to the Slavonic population in Macedonia as Bulgarian. Both bureaucracy nomenclature and personal testimony of prominent figures witness on Bulgarians in Macedonia; there is no mention of some

"Macedonian ethnic nation" whatsoever. Such ethnicity was unknown to the all non-Slave living in Macedonia. The Turks ruled the region of Macedonia for over five centuries, hence, they were well aware on the ethnic character of the population.

The following articles, the result of many discussions and much though about the best solution of the difficult problem were formulated as follows:

1. A special spiritual jurisdiction shall be established under the name of Bulgarian Exarchate, which will include the below mentioned archbishoprics, bishoprics, and others; the Exarchate shall be authorized to manage all the church affairs of this religious faith.

... 10. The spiritual jurisdiction of the Bulgarian Exarchate shall include the bishoprics of Ruse, Silistra, Shurnen, Tarnovo, Sofia, Vratsa, Lovech, Vidin, Nish, Pirot, Kyustendil, Samokov, Veles, Varna... , the district of Sliven..., the country of Sozopol... , the bishopric of Plovdiv...
If all, or at least two thirds of the Orthodox Christian population in other places, besides those enumerated above, are willing to accept the supremacy of the Bulgarian Exarchate in religious matters and if this is duly proved, they will be allowed to do so, but this shall happen only by the will and with agreement of all or, at least two thirds of the population. Those, who try by these means to create trouble and disturbances among the population, will be persecuted and punished according to the law

Note: The Bishops of Kyustendil and Samokov contained parts from the geographical area of Macedonia. Whole Bishop of Veles was situated in Macedonia. After a plebiscite (1871-1873) almost whole Slavic population in the rest of Macedonia chose the supremacy of the Bulgarian Exarchate. According to Lyubcho Georgievski, a leader of the biggest Macedonian non communist party VMRO-DPMNE (IMRO-DPMNU), this event was the first time when

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