Saturday, October 28, 2006

1 The Truth about the Macedonian Question

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The Truth about the Macedonian Question

(prof. Stoyan Novakovich, serbian diplomat and scientist)

Serbian Geopolitics Nurtured Macedonism

In 1822 the Serbian folklorist and linguistic, Vuk Stefanovich Karadjich (1787-1864), published the first work containing grammatical facts about the Bulgarian language. His primary aim was to point out that the Bulgarian language existed, even though it was absent in the dictionaries published in Russia during the late 18th century and which were deemed to contain all languages known at that time. Interestingly Karadjich's analysis of the Bulgarian language was based on the Macedonian dialects.

Prior to formation of the Bulgarian Exarchate in 1870, there was a small, but influential group of Serbians, mainly politicians and some academics, who supported the concept of a "Greater Serbia". However, this was not the popular view and most Serbians saw Bulgarians as their Slav brothers and foresaw a close future relationship. For example in 1867 the Bulgarian emigrants in Bucharest had negotiated an agreement with the Serbians which included the following paramount clause.

The Yugoslavian kingdom will be composed of Serbians and Bulgarians, the latter comprising the territories of Bulgaria, Thrace and MacedoniaIlija Garashanin (1812-1874) was a distinguished Serbian statesman and the main architect of Serbian state policy between 1843-1868. In 1844 he published a blueprint, known as "Nachertanije" (Outline), describing future Serbian territorial ambitions. A plan modelled directly on Dushan's medieval empire - that is including both Macedonia and Old Serbia. But, at the same time Garashanin also encouraged a diplomatic policy of strong support for Bulgarian revolutionary activity against the Turks.

In fact it was 1848 Garashanin who arranged for the Bosnian Croat, Stefan Verkovich (1821-1893), on the pretext of completing Karadjich's linguistic research, to tour Macedonia and covertly collect ethnographic data ultimately be used as support for long-term Serbian hegemony. However in 1860, when the Serbian Academic Society published Verkovich's first volume of "Folk Songs of the Macedonian Bulgarian" awarding him the Serbian "Uceno Druzestvo" (Scholar's Society), in his preface Verkovich said:

I call these songs Bulgarian and not Slavic, because if someone today should ask the Macedonian Slav "what are you?" he would be immediately be told: "I am Bulgarian" and would call his language 'Bulgarian'.Another champion of "Greater Serbia" was Professor Jovan Dragashevich who identified all Macedonians as latent Serbs. For example during the time of the First Bulgarian Legion in Belgrade (1862-4), acrimonious debate erupted between the Bulgarians and their Serbian hosts, over Dragashevich's "teachings" that Salonika was an integral part of "Old Serbia". It was also then that Georgi Rakvosky became conscious of increasing Serbian fanaticism and a desire by its politicians to annex Bulgaria both politically and culturally. These issues, together with settlement of the 1862 dispute between Serbia and Turkey, contributed to the expulsion of the Bulgarian Legion from Serbia.

Inspite of the close relationship between Serbians and Bulgarians, finance from the Serbian government for the "education" of the Macedonian Slavs was initiated in 1866. This led to the "Institute for Serbian Schools in Old Serbia and Macedonia" (1868), formed to coordinate both the building of schools and educational policy.

The Serbian Church had lent support to the Bulgarians in their struggle to establish the Bulgarian Exarchate in 1870; Serbs in general rejoiced at the success of their southern Slav brothers. However when the limits of the Bulgarian Exarchate became defined in 1872, more Serbs began to reflect the long-term political implications. Moreover the Serbian Church had always considered itself heir to the Bulgarian Archbishopric of Ohrid, because of its past subordination to the Pech Patriarchate. Consequently the Serbian Church had requested in 1869 that Turkey only allow Serbian clergy to operate within Macedonia.

Milosh S Milojevich (1840-1897) was the first Serbian to publicly challenge the prevailing consensus concerning the Exarchate's boundaries and the ethnic composition of the Macedonian territories. In 1873 he presented a paper to the Serbian Scholar's Society which characterised the Slavic population of Macedonia as Serbian - a basic repetition of Garashanin's beliefs. Milojevich's thesis was severely criticised by two other Society members, Stoyan Novakovich (1842-1915) and Milan Kujundjich. The latter described Milojevich as ... a cheap, mischievous chauvinist, ignominiously condemned by his fellow countrymen for having committed an unfriendly act against a good neighbour.Thus Milojevich's effort to publish a collection of 740 folk songs, gathered in Old Serbia and Macedonia, as examples of the Serbian language and culture, was rejected by the Serbian Scholars' Society as being flawed.

Nevertheless, Milojevich still found strong support and instituted a society (called by Hristo Botev the 'gang of blackguards') which sent money, books and teachers to Macedonia and parts of north- west Bulgaria. Editorials also appeared in Belgrade newspapers like "Istok", stating that the Exarchate was a chauvinistic institution intent on 'bulgarizing' the Serbs of Macedonian. In answer to such accusations many eminent Bulgarians, including Hristo Botev (1875) and Liuben Karavelov (1874), wrote scathing replies denouncing both the actions of Milojevich and his supporters as well as the Serbian government's surreptitious complicity.

The Russo-Turkish war of 1878 had a number of dire consequences for Serbian nationalistic goals. Because of its support for Russia, Turkey closed all Serbian schools within Macedonia. The Treaty of San Stefano in 1878 demonstrated to Serbian politicians that there existed a strong and general acceptance that Macedonia was populated by Bulgarians. Later in 1881 Serbian hopes to annex Bosnia and Herzegovina had to be abandoned, which meant redirecting its quest for an outlet to the Aegean - via Macedonia. These setbacks led Serbia to instigate the Serbo-Bulgarian war of 1885, which ended in its convincing defeat. Thus to accomplish, what it had failed to do militarily, Serbia now pursued two separate tactics to enhance its future claims to Macedonia. The first was based on proving directly that Macedonia was actually populated by Serbs not Bulgarians; the second involved fostering nascent Macedonian separatism (Macedonism) as a counter to Bulgarian influence.

In the late 1880s several Serbian academics, particularly Dragashevich, Milojko Veselinovich and Stojan Protich rationalised the seeming contradiction of the Macedonian population's non- Serbian identity as follows. First, the term "bulgar" within Macedonia was in fact a generic term meaning a "common person", and as such had no ethnographic meaning. The term "bulgar" had thus been misinterpreted by both the Greeks and European travellers to signify national affiliation, thus leading to the erroneous conclusion that the people had a Bulgarian self- identity. Second, after formation of the Serbian state, the Turkish authorities were anti-Serbian, therefore most Serbs preferred to call themselves "bulgars" to escape persecution. Third, in the post Exarchate era, propaganda forced people to identify themselves as "bulgars" so that the necessary signatures would be available to establish a Bulgarian Church - that is the Exarchate had become an "institution for the Bulgarization of the Serbs".

Spiridon Gopchevich, a Serbian diplomat and Milojevich adherent, made a brief to Macedonia in 1889 and on his return published an ethnographic map which characterising the Macedonian population right up to Nevrokop, Salonica and the Grammos mountains, as Serbian. The renown scholar, Vatroslav Yagich (1838-1923), editor of "Archiv fur Slavische Philologie" (1875-1923) made the following comment on Gopochevich's study -to attack the tendentiously uncritical arguments of Gopochevich is unnecessary; his work condemns itself. It is a pity about the good paper and fine printing, the two most admirable aspects of the book.Nevertheless, Gopochevich's study was accepted, endorsed and promoted by the Serbian government as further vindication of their position on the Macedonian Question.

While previously Stoyan Novakovich had criticised the chauvinistic policies of individuals like Milojevich, times had changed and now as an eminent Serbian statesman he felt it his duty to support Serbian claims to the Macedonian territories. Therefore initially Novakovich attempted to show that Slavic dialects of Macedonia were not part of the Bulgarian language but actually part of the Serbian language. However because his study was dismissed by noted academics of the period, including Yagich, Miletic, Oblak and Derzhavin, he realised that this strategy could not succeed. Subsequently Novakovich advanced a thesis that in the late 9th century Macedonia had three ethnic Slavic groups - Bulgarian, Serbian and "Slovene" - and that these divisions still persisted and were identifiable in the present population. He outlined his theory in "First Foundations of Slavic Literature Amongst the Balkan Slavs", a 300 page monograph published in 1893 by the Serbian Academy of Sciences. What Novakovich had produced was a blueprint for "de-Bulgarization" of the Macedonian Slavs by their "Macedonianization", if direct "Serbianization" could not be readily effected. The intent is explicitly confirmed by Novakovich's well known (and quoted) dispatch to the Serbian Minister of Education in 1888

Since the Bulgarian idea, as it is well known to all, is deeply rooted in Macedonia, I think it is almost impossible to shake it completely by opposing it merely with the Serbian idea. This idea, we fear, would be incapable, as opposition pure and simple, of suppressing the Bulgarian idea. That is why the Serbian idea will need an ally that could stand in direct opposition to the Bulgarianism and would contain in itself the elements which could attract the people and their feelings and thus sever them from Bulgarianism. This ally I see in the Macedonism or to a certain extent in our nursing the Macedonian dialect and Macedonian separatism.Novakovich's ideas were later amplified and extended, first by Iovan Cvijich, and later by Alexander Belitch. It is important to state that the theory of the three Slavic groups, propounded by Novakovich, Cvijich and Belitch was considered unsubstantiated by the available evidence; a position held by most academics including both Yagich and Niederle.

During the 1880s Novakovich effected several important plans to expand the concept of "Macedonism" (Macedonian Separatism) amongst the Macedonian population. Although the Novakovich's strategy can only be described as a failure, its formulation and intent leads to some important historic conclusions regarding the national consciousness (within that era) of the Macedonian people.

The Society of St Sava (founded in 1886) was the chief organ for dissemination of Serbian propaganda on the Macedonian Question and Novakovich was intricately involved behind its agenda and policies. During the same year four members of a secret Macedonian committee in Sofia, went to Belgrade to secure support for their proposed actions in Macedonia. Their plans included the restoration of the Ohrida Diocese, publication of a newspaper "Macedonian Voice" in Istanbul, opening schools where teachers used the "Macedonian" language, and to have all educational literature printed in the Macedonian dialect. Shortly thereafter Novakovich took up his appointment as Serbian consul in Istanbul, where he met with two members of the Macedonian committee to initiate the plan. Although this was only partially successful, Serbian schools were opened in Macedonia, and books were printed in the Macedonian dialect. The latter were based on an increasing Serbian language content as the educational standard increased. However in 1898 when asked with respect to the reprinting of these texts in the Macedonian dialect, Novakovich recommended only the Serbian language should be used - the anticipated attraction of the Macedonian dialect had not eventuated.

The Society of St Sava also offered well-paid scholarships to Macedonians in the hope they could ultimately be turned against the Bulgarian idea. Between 1888 and 1889 quite a number of Macedonians accepted these scholarships and went to Belgrade. They soon became aware of the obvious underlying reasons behind the program however, especially when they were forbidden to possess "Bulgarian" literature. Subsequently some 30 to 40 students left Belgrade to continue their education elsewhere, mostly Sofia. Among that group were some later very well-known figures - Dame Gruev, Petar Pop Arsov and Krste Misirkov. It must be considered more than coincidental that two of the latter individuals (PPA, and especially KM) shortly thereafter proffered views on the Macedonian Question that in essence supported the covert intent of Novakovich's theory. However it was during Novakovich's appointment as consul at St Petersburg that the staunchest and most dogmatic advocate of "Macedonism", Dimitur Chupovski, arose. Again we note that Chupovski and his small group of followers were directly supported by the St Sava Society and had an almost identical agenda to that of the four Macedonians that met with Novakovich in Belgrade during 1886. It did not matter to Novakovich that "Macedonism" was also essentially anti-Serbian, as long as it opposed or slowed the spread of Bulgarian influence within Macedonia.

An important historic issue is the reaction to both Serbian propaganda and Macedonism within Macedonia itself. First, it is known that one of the main reasons for the establishment of IMRO by Dame Gruev in 1893 was to block the spread of Serbian influence into Macedonia, less it hinder the ultimate unification of the Bulgarian people. Thus although IMRO's short-term goal was autonomy, its long-term goal was unification, as had occurred with East Rumelia. There can be no doubt IMRO was a Bulgarian organization, protecting the Bulgarian national interest against the Serbs. Several other organizations also formed within Macedonia (1897) to oppose Serbian propaganda - the Revolutionary Brotherhood and the Charitable Brotherhood - the latter to specifically undermine Serbian schools, a strategy in which it was quite successful. Even earlier (1891), Gyorche Petrov, later a famous IMRO committee member, was so concerned by the obvious Serbian schemes that he spent his time exclusively on ethnographic research in Skopje to ensure the availability of indisputable evidence to support the "Bulgarian" character of the Macedonian population.

As for "Macedonism", the memoirs of Hristo Shaldev which discuss Dimitur Chupovski, plainly show how few adherents this concept had in 1903. We also have to accept that Krste Misirkov only promoted the concept of "Macedonism" when he felt the Bulgarian position in Macedonia was irrevocably lost - as in 1903 after Ilinden (when he wrote "On Macedonian Matters") and after WWI. At all other times he was a staunch advocate of the Bulgarian character of Macedonia. Misirkov's pro-Macedonism arguments were resurrected and re-packaged by the Comintern in 1934 as evidence for a "Macedonian Nation". Novakovich did not live to see the success of the strategy he first devised in the middle 1880s - a plan which undoubtedly has prevented the historic reunion of the Bulgarian people. Dame Gruev and IMRO were correct in their assessment of the danger of Serbian influence.

In his memoirs (finished 18 Aug 1947) Hristo Shaldev speaks for all Macedonian patriots when he writes:

I am saddened that I cannot spend the remaining years of my life in Gumendje, and at the same time I am indignant that the youngest generation of Vardar Macedonia has disavowed both the achievements and self-determination of their fathers, grand-fathers and great-grand-fathers and has been misled by the Serbian theories of Professors Novakovich, Cvijich and Belich.


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