Saturday, October 28, 2006

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Claims to Macedonian Identity

LM Danforth - Anthropology Today, 9(4) Aug 1993

The article is hopelessly biased and therefore quite misleading. By reliance on subjective rather than objective arguments it perpetuates the myth of Macedonism, an example of sophism originally encouraged by the Serbians during the nineteenth century, then later included as part of Stalin and Tito's policies to further political aspirations with respect to a Balkan Federation.

Accordingly, Danforth's article not only distorts, but actually dismisses the overwhelming predominance of evidence which establishes the basic Bulgarian character of Macedonia and its people. For obvious reasons he forgets to report that some 1-2 million past Macedonian refugees from the Aegean and Vardar regions and their descendants now live in Bulgarian with their own particular societies, newspapers etc. More importantly he also fails to explain that they too seek and agitate for Human Rights at appropriate International venues for their brethren both in Greece and the Republic of Macedonia, where any citizen who attempts to self-identify as a Bulgarian-Macedonian and countenance debate on such issues suffers severe harassment and in many cases quite unpleasant imprisonment.

Perhaps Danforth should have mentioned that since 1944 some 23,000 Macedonians with a Bulgarian national consciousness were liquidated by Tito's regime and over 120,000 tortured in concentration camps like Idrisovo, purportedly the largest prison in the Balkans. Included amongst these purges were the Republic of Macedonia's first two Presidents (Antonov-Cento and Fotev). I would welcome Danforth's rationalisation of the infamous "Macedonian Honour Code" by which any parent caught instilling a Bulgarian identity in their children, were imprisoned for ten years, and the children made wards of the state. Strangely he also makes no mention of the 700 odd trials and numerous death sentences passed and carried out against "pro- Bulgarian" organizations. The most recent such trial was held in Veless 22nd June 1992, when 6 individuals were sentenced to terms of up to 2« years imprisonment. I can assure Danforth that such methods are extremely effective at achieving a high degree of "ethnospecificity".

Can Danforth explain why when the "oppressive" Bulgarian National Army (BNA) marched into Skopje in WWII, almost the whole population lined the streets to afford them a tumultuous welcome; even the Macedonian Communist Party (MCP) embraced them as their kindred brothers and liberators. No wonder when Tito sent the MCP an edict to fight, they replied that he was the real enemy of the Macedonian people and not the BNA! Where and when did this often quoted "oppressive assimilation" by Bulgaria occur, and how can one assimilate ones own people? Possibly Danforth is referring to the Bulgarian 1946 census when the Bulgarian Communist Party, being as always totally subservient to Stalin, indulged in what may only be termed national nihilism, and forced Bulgarians within the Pirin region to declare themselves ethnic Macedonians; the many 1000s who refused spent some five years in harsh concentration camps. There are many such examples.

Danforth however indulges in even greater misrepresentation when he mentions "Krste Misirkov" as an early advocate of Macedonian nationalism. It was in fact Dimiter Chupovski, and a handful of other intellectuals, all educated in Serbia, who originally formed the "Slav-Macedonian Literary Society" in St Petersburg (1902) to convince Russian academics that Slav Macedonians represent a separate South Slavic people. They pledged allegiance to the Ottoman Empire which inturn ardently supported their policies, consequently they had absolutely no public support and in fact were marked for assassination by the Macedonian Revolutionary Organisation (IMRO) as traitors of the Macedonian people! Not surprising, as IMRO's own original constitution restricted membership to Bulgarians and its most famous leaders unequivocally professed their Bulgarian nationalism, in their personal letters, in their memoirs and in numerous other documentation. Thus by what logic can the Republic of Macedonia promote the facade of an unique ethnicity when its most celebrated revolutionaries declared themselves Bulgarian! Notwithstanding the latter paradox, even more bizarre is the truth about Misirkov, who maintained his parentage was Bulgarian, and on numerous later occasions characterised himself as a patriotic Bulgarian national!

Perhaps Danforth might also ponder on the countless surveys conducted at the turn of the century, by a plethora of individuals/organisations, which are remarkable in two aspects, their agreement that the majority of Macedonia's inhabitants were Bulgarian and that there were no or minuscule numbers of Serbians. If this is still insufficient then I recommend Danforth study the published scientific literature (Hasluck MM & Morant GM. Biometrika 1929;21:322-336). Then again maybe Danforth is implying Professor Carleton Coon's well-known reference text "The Races of Europe" (1939) needs revision, since it only acknowledges ethnic Bulgarians and no ethnic Macedonians?. Similarly has that eminent Balkan historian John VA Fine Jr. ("The Early Medieval Balkans", 1983, p37) also been completely duped when he 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".

Above all else I am particularly indignant at Danforth's perpetuation of the naive and denigrating assertion of "illiterate peasants with no clearly developed sense of national identity"; as a person whose parents, grandparents etc all came from the Macedonian region, I can assure Danforth they knew exactly who and what they were; to them the terms Bulgarian and Macedonian were synonymous. I unreservedly acknowledge and respect that a Macedonian national consciousness exists today amongst many people and they have every right to determine their own destiny and future. They however have no right to deny people's human rights, falsify history or retrospectively strip individual's ethnic self-identity to somehow justify their own.

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