Saturday, October 28, 2006
Nasite granici: Macedonian group boundaries 1900 to 1945.
T Momiroski - J Intercultural Studies 1993; 14: 35-52
The full online text of the above article, and rejoinder to our following critiquewhich appeared on T Momiroski's site is no longer available.
In his recent article, Momiroski concludes that "Macedonians had ethnic boundaries before the partitioning of Macedonia following the Balkan Wars". However Momiroski's underlying assumption concerning the historic existence of a "Macedonian ethnicity" is not grounded in data or fact. Ironically, the claim that "Macedonian ethnic identity has been shaped by three pervasive influences: oppression, language and religion" (ibid., 43), also characterises the totalitarian Marxist-Leninist approach within the post-1945 boundaries of the Socialist Federal Republic of Macedonia (SFRM). In fact the Yugoslavian communist party's "nation-building" policy in SFRM closely paralleled concurrent USSR strategy in Moldavia - "severing the ties of the Moldavians (part of the Rumanian people) with Rumanian history and culture" (Bruchis 1984:1). Accordingly, Momiroski's article in common with many others, seeks through a mixture of misrepresentation and fiction, to legitimise a transformation of Macedonia's historic Bulgarian population into "ethnic" Macedonians. This article is a rebuttal to such views.
Before revision of the Treaty of San Stefano (March 3, 1878) by the Treaty of Berlin (July 13, 1878) the Macedonian Question did not exist. Significantly, "San Stefano" Bulgaria was founded on the principle of nationality. First, it conformed to the ethnographic distribution of Bulgarians as identified by united Europe at the Conference of Ambassadors of 1876 (Logio 1936:323) and detailed in the Projet de reglement pour la Bulgarie (Bourchier 1905:57). Second, it corresponded to the diocese of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church issued by the Turkish firman (decree) of 1870 (ibid., 54). The Encyclopaedia Britannica also accepts these same facts when it states:
The Berlin Treaty, by its artificial division of the Bulgarian race, created the difficult and perplexing 'Macedonian Question'. The population handed back to Turkish rule never acquiesced in its fate.(JDB 1911:221)Perhaps British historian AJP Taylor (1960:246) most aptly summarised the situation when he wrote "historically a Macedonian is simply a Bulgarian who was put back under Turkish rule in 1878". Thus creation of Ottoman Macedonia in 1878, cannot, on the evidence be rationalised as providing "a focus upon the Macedonian national question" (Momiroski 1993:49), but rather as providing a focus upon the territorial division of the Bulgarian nation.
The inhabitants of the Macedonian region had an integral role in the Bulgarian national revival. The monk Paisii of Hilendar, born in the Macedonian town of Bankso, wrote in 1762 the "Slav-Bulgarian History", credited with rousing Bulgarian patriotism and providing an impetus to the opening of Bulgarian schools (Anastasoff 1977:69). Neofit Rilski, also from Bankso, produced the first real Bulgarian grammar in 1835 (Gyllin 1991:24). The famous Miladinov brothers born in Struga, were two of the most prominent intellectuals in the fight, throughout Macedonia and Bulgaria, against Hellenism. In 1861 they published their acclaimed "Bulgarian Folk Songs", in which most of the 660 songs were from Macedonia (Koroloff, Stefanoff& Vassos, 1982). Another celebrated Bulgarian was Grigor Purlichev (MacDermott 1978:67). Born in Ohrid, Macedonia (1830) and educated in Greece, Purlichev subsequently published his famous "Autobiography" describing the spiritual and political oppression of the Bulgarian people (Voynov & Panayotov 1969:239). Even Dimiter Blagoev, acknowledged as the founder of socialism in Bulgaria, was born in Macedonia (ibid., 431).
It is on the question of religion, that Momiroski's premise of "ethnic Macedonians" is readily contradicted. Why did the "Macedonians" so overwhelmingly champion the creation of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church rather than their own? Momiroski's explanations only represent speculation. But it is a fact that the first independent Bulgarian church, established in 1860, was the "Bulgarian Uniate Church", and the majority of its 60,000 adherents were located in the Macedonian districts of Kukush, Voden and Salonika (Logio 1936:320). Therefore ten years before the creation of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church (Exarchate), Slav-Macedonians confronted by the hostility of the Greek clergy towards the Slavonic liturgy established their own separate "Bulgarian" church (Philipov 1967:28). Under the conditions of the firman, governing creation of the Exarchate (1870), many Macedonian towns could receive a Bulgarian minister, but only if it was established that at least two-thirds of the population agreed. The majority of towns in Macedonia overwhelmingly voted to have the Exarchate, for example in Skopje and Ohrid some 94 and 99% respectively of the townspeople (Voynov & Panayotov 1969:186). The cumulative information establishes that Slav-Macedonians were at the forefront of the campaign to restore the Bulgarian Church. This is corroborated by the reports of American missionaries who worked amongst the Bulgarian people long before there was a Bulgarian state created.
An important topic which Momiroski overlooks is the Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (MRO) formed in Salonika (1893). Its leaders, such as Delchev, Gruev and Sandanski today are Macedonian national heroes, however within their own lifetime they all unequivocally acknowledged their "Bulgarian" nationality. For example Perry comments:
Since the literature of the time and even the correspondence of no less a figure than the legendary Macedonian revolutionary leader, Gotse Delchev, refer to the Slavs of Macedonia as "Bulgarians" in an offhanded manner without seeming to indicate that such a designation was a point of contention.(Perry 1988:23)Such a statement is hardly questionable given MRO's first official title was the "Bulgarian-Macedonian-Adrianople Revolutionary Organization", and the 1897 statutes, written by Delchev and Petrov, restricted membership to Bulgarians (ibid., 65). Perusal of the memoirs of MRO's president Hristo Tartarchev (Bilyarski, 1989) or long-term committee member Hristo Shaldev (Schaldew, 1993), affirms the Bulgarian character of MRO and the Slav-Macedonians who supported it. Independent confirmation that MRO comprised Bulgarian-Macedonians, is provided in the texts of American adventurers, Albert Sonnichsen (1909) and Arthur Smith (1906), who actually joined MRO and fought against the Turks.
Another significant occurrence relating directly to the same question of an Macedonian ethnicity, was the Young Turks' revolt (Huriet) of 1908. Under the new regime the Ottoman Empire was to be reformed and political equality granted to all its subject-races. Accordingly the Macedonian revolutionary bands suspended their activities and helped to organise the "Union of Bulgarian Constitutional Clubs", which by 1909 had established sixty-seven branches across Macedonia (Anastasoff 1938:145). An Ottoman parliament was to govern, to which all the Empire's nationalities elected their representatives. The important point is that the Turks only acknowledged a Bulgarian element, consistent with the national consciousness of the Slav-Macedonians. Enver Bey, one of the main leaders of the Huriet, recalled - "I myself had studied very closely the Internal Organization of the Macedonian Bulgars. I admired it, and it gave us many hints" (Buxton 1909:135). Again the logical question why didn't the Slav-Macedonians demand recognition from the Turks as a separate ethnicity during a period of political equality and no oppression?
Over a century ago Macedonians, who had been forced to immigrate to Bulgaria, organized their own societies for the sole purpose of securing Macedonia's freedom and preserving its Bulgarian national character and traditions (Crampton, 1983). No evidence has ever been presented that the Bulgarian state or government coerced the Macedonians to call themselves "Bulgarian". In fact some Bulgarian governments forcibly attempted to restrain the "Bulgarian manifestations" of these same Macedonian immigrants (ibid. 131). Slav-Macedonians in their thousands rushed to fight alongside the Bulgarian army in the Serbo-Bulgarian War of 1885 (ibid.). Not one ever fought on the Serbian side. In the Balkan Wars the Slav-Macedonians formed a detachment of 15,000 volunteers in the Bulgarian army (Anastasoff 1938:195), which included regiments of tens of thousands of soldiers organized from amongst the Macedonian immigrants. Again no Slav-Macedonians volunteered for the Greek, Serbian or Montenegrin armies. Notwithstanding the preceding information we also have the dozens on dozens of publications written in the nineteenth century by European historians, linguists, anthropologists, ethnologists, statesmen and adventurers all characterising the Slav-Macedonians as Bulgarians and a part of the Bulgarian nation.
Momiroski's (1993:37) mention of the 1946 Bulgarian census when "Macedonians were encouraged to label themselves 'Macedonians"', fails to disclose the full facts. The Bulgarian Communist Party conducted the census only because they were led to believe that Macedonia would be incorporated into a Balkan Federation of nation-states (GS & Moore, 1979). The vital fact, seldom acknowledged in both the 1946 and 1956 census, was that Bulgarians in the Pirin region were not encouraged, but obliged to record their nationality as "Macedonian", refusal meant imprisonment (Helsinki Watch 1991:3).
Analysis of what constitutes an ethnicity relies more on subjective, rather than objective criteria. Connor's recent series of articles on this theme, presents a lucid account of the many issues and inconsistencies involved, especially with respect to the existing literature. It is therefore unusual that Momiroski chose to ignore Connor's specific remarks concerning the question of a Macedonian nation:
At least until quite recently, Macedonian opinion has been divided. Majority opinion agreed with Sofia that Macedonians were a branch of the Bulgar nation, while others considered themselves to be either Serb or Greek. There was scant indication of any conviction that Macedonians considered them- selves a separate nation. There is little reason to question Belgrade's recent success in encouraging a sense of nationhood among most Macedonians, although the 1981 census data, which indicated a total absence of people within Macedonia who claimed either Bulgar or Greek identity, are unques- tionably fraudulent.(Connor 1991:7)Connor (1978:388) characterises a nation as a "self-aware ethnic group". Of importance to the present work are Ernest Barker's following comments:
The self-consciousness of nations is a product of the nineteenth century. This is a matter of the first importance. Nations were already there; they had indeed been there for centuries.(Barker 1927:113)
When we examine the progressive role Slav-Macedonians played in the Bulgarian national revival, the creation of the Bulgarian Church, the defence of the Bulgarian fatherland and the continual defence of their Bulgarian self-identity, then their own actions establish them as feeling part of the Bulgarian nation. Additionally we also know that these same people existed collectively as part of the Bulgarian state for centuries. The same argument is not possible for "Macedonians". First, historically the term "Macedonia" has only had geographic connotations. Second, for more than a millennium prior to the late nineteenth century the actual name "Macedonia" was associated with the territory defined by present day Thrace. Therefore when Momiroski talks about "nashi", it is only relevant to a Macedonian ethnicity which has developed in SFRM during the post-World War II era. This predicament is recognised by some politicians in today's Republic of Macedonia. They argue that reconciliation between the people of Macedonia can only truly occur following revision of both the Republic of Macedonia's language and history to erase the many incorporated Serbian attributes. Such statements from potentially future leaders of the Republic of Macedonia directly undermine Momiroski's concept of "nasi".
Tireless attempts by authors, such as Momiroski and many others, justifying the contemporary creation of a Macedonian nation by historic revisionism, have provided much idiographic knowledge as well as many illogical arguments, but certainly not the kind of reliable, stable and valid information required. Finally, if we accept as a hypothesis that "historically Slav-Macedonians considered themselves part of the Bulgarian nation", then considerable verifiable evidence has, and can be presented to objectively satisfy that claim. In contrast Momiroski 's (1993) article fails to provide any valid information which would warrant revision of the latter.
ENDNOTES1. For a thorough analysis of this issue see Palmer and King (1971), Connor (1984) and Kofos (1986).2. Such reports appeared extensively in The Missionary Herald and The Missionary News from Bulgaria - for excerpts see Anastasoff( 1977) and references cited therein. Hall (1938) also has relevant information.3. See Connor (1991), (1984) and (1978).4. Fine Jr. (1983:37) states 'Thus the reader should ignore references to ethnic Macedonians in the Middle Ages which appear in some modern works. In the Middle Ages and into the nineteenth century, the term Macedonian was used entirely in reference to a geographic region".5. Koledaroff (1985) has presented an extensive treatise on this subject. Also see comments by Perry (1988,12).6. Keynote address given at 1992 IMRO-DPMNU party conference (Ohrid), by Ljupco Georgievski, President of IMRO-DPMNU, political party with largest number of delegates in Republic of Macedonia's current Parliament.
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