Saturday, October 28, 2006
The Plight of the Bulgarians under the Rule of Serbs and Greeks from 1912 up to Present Day
The Bulgarian nationality of the Slav population of Macedonia, has been known to the world for the last ten centuries. A great number of ethnological studies and authoritive books by scientists, politicians and travelers from various countries establish this fact beyond doubt, It will suffice here to recount a few historical facts of irrefutable significance.
The Bysantian emperor Basilius II is known to history as "The Killer of Bulgarians". He won this doubtful distinction in connection with the blinding of fifteen thousand Bulgarian war prisoners, part of the armies of King Samuel. It should be noted, that Samuel, known as the king of the Bulgarians had his capital in what is known as Macedonia. The armies of Samuel were made chiefly of Bulgarians from the various Macedonian provinces. The blinding of fifteen thousand soldiers took place in the year 1014.
In the fourteenth century, the Serbian kind Doushan added to his name the title "King of the Bulgars" only after his conquest of some portions of Macedonia. Some of that territory remained under Serb rule for only 40 years, after which it fell under the Turks, advancing across the Balkan Peninsula. For centuries before that, these lands were an integral part of the Bulgarian kingdom which fell under Turkish invasion of Eastern Europe before Serbia did.
The official archives of the Turkish Empire for a period of five centuries (from the fouteenth century till 1912) list the Slav population of Macedonia as Bulgarians in each case of acts of the Government concerned with the people of those terriroties. A considerable part of those archives are still kept in Constantinople.
The rebirth of the Bulgarian nation (1830 - 1870) manifested itself with greatest force in Macedonia. As a result the Bulgarian churches in Macedonia became independent of Greek rule seven years before similar victories over the spiritual yoke of the Constantinople Patriarch were won in present day Bulgaria. That took place during the time when the whole Bulgarian nation, from the Danube and the Black Sea to the Agean and the Albanian borders was under the political rule of the Turks. Many records of those days have been preserved, including the writings of Serbian contemporaries, Serb newspapers and official documents, all of which describe developments in that struggle for religious freedom, and point with sympathetic approval the achievments of the spiritual awakening in Macedonia.
The Bulgarians in Macedonia led a heroic struggle against the Turkish regime, well-known throughout the world for its valour, glory and countless sacrifices. The struggle for political freedom in Macedonis has been followed abroad and written about not only in the press, but in the official records of many governments as well. Everything said and written about it, together with the nature of that struggle and the pronouncements of the fighting nation is a testimony to Bulgarian nationhood.
After 1912, the largest part of Macedonia was left under Serb and Greek rule, and - as it could be expected - the struggle has continued. From that year on there followed an endless chain of suffering, martyrdom, emigration, protest to the Big Powers and world public opinion, political unrest and the like, all of which is an expression of the indestructable will of the Bulgarians in Macedonia to resist all efforts at de-nationalization, and achieve their freedom.
The language of the Slavs of Macedonia is a Bulgarian dialect. In contrast to all other Slav languages, save Bulgarian, the Macedonian dialect contains the two typical grammatical traits by which Bulgarian differs from the other Slav tongues, namely, the total abscence of case, and the use of the fixed article attached to the noun.
The situation of the Bulgarians in Macedonia under the rule of the Turkish Empire up to 1912, seems almost envious in comparison with what has followed since.
In the territories which fell during 1912 and 1913 under Serb domination there were at the time: 761 Bulgarian churches with six bishops and 833 priests; 641 Bulgarian schools - grammar schools, junior high schools and high schools - with 1013 teachers. In the territories left under Greek rule, the Bulgarians had: 378 churches with 300 priests, and 340 schools with 750 teachers.
In all these territories, the Bulgarian population, as well as Christians of national minorities, had the freedom to govern their dioceses through free elections at town meetings.
There existed freely Bulgarian athletic organization, choirs, orchestras, libraries, etc. The Turk had no intention whatever to obstruct or deny the use of Bulgarian language.
A number of Bulgarian newspapers and periodicals flourished. There existed Bulgarian printing presses and publishing companies.
After the constitutional reforms in Turkeym in 1908 the Bulgarians were given the right to elect their own representatives to the Turkish Parliament.
The Turks did not persecute any national group within the Empire because of its nationality. On the contrary - there was under the Turkish rule sufficient freedom to allow for national development and cultural advancement.
What befell the Bulgarians of Macedonia after their subjugation to the rule of Serbia and Greece? The briefly enumerated facts below provide the answer to this question:
Serb and Greek authorities began their persecution of the Bulgarian population of Macedonia in the very first months while still the allies of Bulgaria (during 1912-13). A considerable number of priests and teachers were threatened and caused to flee the country, The same fate befell a great number of influential citizens. Many were tortured, others were killed. The Bulgarian schools were closed. The Bulgarian civic organizations were discontinued. Attempts were made in many localities to force people to change their Bulgarian names.
Immediately after the end of the war against Bulgaria (in 1913), and the official incorporation of the greater part of Macedonia under Serbia and Greecem the anti-Bulgarian cmpaign spread openly and officially in every dimension. All Bulgarian churches and schools were declared Serbian or Greek respectively. All priests and teachers still remaining in their places were forced either to "declare" themselves Serbs or Greeks, or to migrate to Bulgaria. All instruction in the former Bulgarian schools was given in Serb or Greek. The forced de-nationalization of the Bulgarians began as a rule with the schools. The Bulgarian books were confiscated and destroyed. Anyone in possession of such books assumed risks greater than in the case of possession of weapons. Not even the Bulgarian Bible was allowed those people. And as to the Bulgarian past of Macedonia, no one could write or speak, be it even in Greek or Serbian. All Traces of Bulgarian organizations or libraries were destroyed. The Bulgarian dioceses shared the common fate of all other Bulgarian institutions. All Bulgarians were ordered to attach Greek or Serb endings to their names, in order that signs of national origin may be removed. There was no way left for any social expression on the part of the population. Even the tourist clubs, temperance organizations, benevolent societies, nad the like were suppressed. At the same time, memberships in Serb or Greek political parties and chauvinistic organizations directed from Belgrade or Athens, were not only free, but obligatory. All Bulgarian customs, folk songs, even national costumes - in short, everything characteristic of the Bulgarian people - was claimed to be in reality of Serb or Greek origin. In the latter case wherever the obstacle of language could be overcome, it was by one form of perversion or another. The Bulgarian population of Macedonia lived under the constant oppression of a dictatorial regime, which tortured the spirit and enslaved the body. It was under these conditions that Macedonian resistance began - a resistance nurtured by the resolve to preserve the national heritage of centuries, a resistance which cost the lives of many fighters for freedom, and one by which the Bulgarians of Macedonia wished to call the attention of the civilized world to the pitiful plight of their homeland. Just as there was no other nation in Europe so subdued in its quest for freedom after centuries of slavery, so there was no contemporary movement on the Continent that could compare with the sublime effort of the Bulgarians in Macedonia to hold on despite every adversity.
The situation under the first Serb and Greek regimes in Macedonia (1912 - 1915) remained unchanged during the second regime (1918 - 1941). If anyone dared to rise up as a spokesman in defense of the rights of the local population, even within the existing laws, became known as a leader closely associated with the feelings of his countrymenm the ruling authorities took immediate measures for his removal, or forced him to go underground. The powers-that-be did little for the economic, educational and social advancement of the people. On the contrary everything was done to bring about the ruin of the well-to-do class, in order to impoverish the population and break its spirit, and lower whatever national pride remained. Systematic measures were taken to demoralize the Bulgarian youth and lead it away from any thought of national strength of endurance. Not a single step was taken to improve living conditions or the health of the citizens. Everything was left as it was at the time of the Turkish rule, with this difference, that the country lagged farther and farther behind the normally advancing nations of Europe. A "Chinese Wall" was built between the oppressed Bulgarians in Macedonia and their brothers in Bulgaria, or those who had emigrated to America or other countries. For more than twenty years, scores of thousands of Macedonian families could not receive even a word from their dear ones abroad, nor send a message across the border. The powers-that-be treated Macedonia as a private perimeter for their brutal de-nationalization practices. No outside observer could enter this perimeter. Thus, when a group of Croatian members of the National Assembly, members of the Peasant Party, led by the brother and brother-in-law of the Croatian leader - Stephan Radich, went into Macedonia in order to establish some ties of contact with its population, a special band of ruffiants was organized by the authorities to meet them with stones, shouting insults and forcing them to leave hastily. In 1932 two Britishers, members of Parliament - Messrs. Ben Riley and Davis. who had come to Macendonia so as to study local conditions, were forced by the authorities to turn back, and the Macedonians who had met with them were exposed to endless questioning by the police, moral torture and what not.
The national minorities in Macedonia, such as the Albanians and Rumanians, also suffered under the Serb and Greek regimes. The heavy hands of the authorities fell upon their educational and social institutions as well. But the Bulgarian population was the one that bore the heaviest burden of terror and fear of the unknown. Smaller national groups in Macedonia also tried to make known to the outside world the fate they endured, through presentations before the League of Nations and the Big Powers. The Bulgarians in Macedonia have repeatedly spproached those powers as well as the League, insisting, among other things, for an impartial investigation of conditions in Macedonia. Sad as it is, all their appeals remained unanswered. Right before the eyes of, they were left in a lawless state of existence, comparable to that of the slaves of older times. True, there existed a treaty containing clauses for the protection of minorities, according to which the Bulgarians in the kingdom of Yugoslavia were supposed to have gotten freedom of speech, their own schools and churches, and even the right to receive state funds destined for the support of these institutions. In Yugoslavia, however, there was no sign of the existence of such clauses. In Greece for a while much noise was made concerning some Slavic alphabet, which was supposed to be in preparation for use in the annexed territories. But even this ridiculous project met a quiet death. It should be made clear, that in the wHole of Macedonia, and still more, in that part which went under Yugoslavia, the Bulgarians form the majority of population. In Macedonia under Greek rule they were in the majority until 1922, after which year the Greek government began to settle in the country the Greeks from Asia Minor. According to all reliable statistics, the population of Macedonia in 1912, that is, at the end of the Turkish regime, ammounted to 2 300 000, of which:
Bulgarians - nearly .................... 1 250 000
Turks .......................................... 540 000
Greeks ........................................ 250 000
Albanians .................................... 170 000
Vlachs ........................................... 70 000
Jews .............................................. 85 000
and a scattering of other smaller national groups.
There is not time here to go into detail concerning the physical terror to which the Macedonians were subjected from the beginning of the Serb and Greek regimesm a terror which has continued up to this time. It is hardly necessary to underline the fact that within the borders of Macedonia there exists a perfect police state. The free movement within those borders has bees obstructed repeatedly; unbearable limitations to free trade have been imposed; education is a problem - unlawful restrictions here are the rule; misuse of power seems to be a privilege contained in the very appointment of an official Private property, human rights and human dignity as such have always been in jeopardy. Threats, assault, arrests without reason, unjust and prejudiced courts were the rule of the day. And yet, this is but a part of what the Macedonian people had to endure. To it should be added the endless horror of frequent murder of innocent citizens and villagers by irresponsible officials. Such officials, appointed from above, yet, obviously responsible to no one, formed a peculiar kind of administration in the land. Periodically there were mass murders, interments and exile to distant parts of the country. A voluminous look should be written if one is to give a comprehensive picture of Macedonia's martyrdom. Some details on the situation during the period of the Balkan wars have come to the attention of the public abroad through the Carnegie report, which contains the findings of the international investigating body financed by the Carnegie Foundation. We believe that the brief examination of our subject has given the reader at least a general idea of the plight of the Bulgarians in Macedonia under the rule of Serbs and Greeks from 1912 to 1941. The facts enumerated here are known in detail to all experts on the Balkan question in America and Europe, as well as to the governments concerned with developments in the Eastern European countries, including Macedonia.
After the establishment of the Communist regime in the part of Macedonia included in Yugoslavia, the situation remained unchanged. More correctly said - it has worsened. De-nationalization measures employed against the Bulgarian population have continued in an accelerated tempo, more than under the Serb chauvinists. The name "Bulgarian" is persecuted with fire and sword. In accordance with some twist of Communist thinking, the new dictators are promoting the idea of some hitherto unknown "Macedonian" nationality. It is not here a matter of calling all those living in Macedonia with the name Macedonians, as all people living in Switzerland are called Swiss. Nothing of the kind. The policy of the Communists concerns only the Bulgarian majority, which is being converted at least in name into a "new nation". Meanwhile, the Turkish, Greek, Albanian and Rumanian population is specifically treated as belonging to their respective ethnological groups. This Communist initiative suits the Serbs well, and so Belgrade has given it its blessing, continuing the anti-Bulgarian policies which it followed up to 1941, a policy without a parallel in Europe. In Southern Macedonia, now under Greek rule, the situation of the minorities is much worse, especially that of the Bulgarians. The Greek authorities persist in their efforts to extinguish or drive away the Bulgarians from their centuries-old birthplace. It is difficult for the cultured man of today to believe that such conditions could exist not so far from the nations of Western Europe, and not far removed from America, as well. But all of what had been said here is a statement of fact, although not the complete ugly story. From 1912 up to this day there have followed in Yugoslavia and Greece a chain of events disgraceful for the century in which we live, and a dishonor on the face of Europe.
Copyright (c) Central Committee of the Macedonian Political Organizations, Indianapolis, U.S.A.