Evidence of Macedonia in the Ottoman Period
The establishment of Ottoman Turkish Rule in Macedonia, which took place at the end of 14th century, had two main consequences of a lasting nature for Macedonia and its population.
The first consequence was that in the following five hundred years, up to the end of the Ottoman Turkish rule in 1912, there occurred as never hitherto not thereafter an interruption in economic, cultural and general communications over the entire territory. The name of that particular territory, Macedonia, was never questioned in the course of the numerous administrative and territorial changes which took place in the course of Ottoman Turkish rule. One of the strong proofs and indications of this was the “Sketch of the Territory of Macedonia” (rezsm-i memleket- Makedonya) published on page 277 of the well known work of the equally well known Turkish historian, geographer and travel-writer of the mid 17th century, Hadzi Kalfa Mustafa or Katib Celebija (Katib Celebi, Cuhannuma, 277). Here the territory of the Republic of Macedonia is marked as Macedonia, separately from neighboring Greece, Albania, Serbia and Bulgaria.
The Venetian captain Gio Mario Del’ Angiolelo, traveling from south towards Salonica, wrote in his diary for August 10th: ” . . . a large river called the Vardar which flows through Macedonia . . .” (Istanbul, Basbakanlik Arsivi, Rumeli Mufetisligi Tasnifi, Sadaret ve Bashkitabet Evraki, 4/398). It should be noted that he did not say river Axios. Also Vardar does flow through the Republic of Macedonia, and consequently the territory of the Republic of Macedonia is a part of Macedonia, according to Angiolelo.
In a telegram of April 7th, 1903, from the Grand Vizier’s Office is written: “Information concerning the Sultan’s command that in all addresses to and announcements in connection with the Rumeli vilayets [Skopje, Bitola and Salonica vilayets]: form henceforth the local names are to be used and under no circumstances the name Macedonia . . . “. This was a reaction to the persistent emphasis on the name Macedonia on the part of the Macedonian Revolutionary Organization and also by the European press and diplomatic representatives at the time when the decision about the uprising was taken.
The second consequence was that the entire population which had been taken was put in subjugated position of captives, with a serious threat that in the course of time it would lose its identity. Up to the close of the 18th century, religious persuasion was the basic yardstick by which the Ottoman Turkish authorities classified the population (the rayah, or the dimmi) in the state. Thus, all official censuses carried out in the course of 15th and 16th centuries, and to a certain extent in 18th century, described the population of Macedonia exclusively as non – believing (i.e. Christian population), the Moslem and the Jewish population.
The 15th century travel-writer Betradon de la Broquier writes: “And there are many Christians who perforce serve the Turk, such as Greeks, Bulgarians, Macedonians, Albanians . . . Serbians . . .”.And Angiolelo, whom I have already mentioned, says of Mt. Athos that: ” . . .here are to be found many monasteries of Christian monks, of whom some are Greeks, others Macedonians . . .”
Further evidence of Macedonia in the Ottoman Period, as well as before and after include:
The name Macedonia continued to be used as is testified in the letters of the Archbishop of Ohrid Theofilact (who was Archbishop of Ohrid after the fall of Samuil’s Empire) who stated to the recipients of the letters that he lived “within the narrow confines of our Macedonia.”
In the following centuries, when the Macedonians had a variety of alien overlords, they remained as a separate people. It is, for example, confirmed in the synodal acts of the Archbishopric of Ohrid that in the first half of the 13th century, when Macedonia came under the rule of the Despots of Epirus, the inhabitants of Macedonia continued to declare themselves as Macedonians (D. Angelov, Prinos k’m narodnosnite i pozemelni otnosheniya v Makedoniya (Epirski Despotat) prez prvata chetvrt na XIII v., Izvestiya na Kamarata na narodna kultura, seriya Humanitarni nauki, II, 3, Sofia, 1947, 11-12 ff.)
Such was the case too in the first half of the 14th century when the greater part of Macedonia came under Serbian rule. Even the Serbian ruler himself in his Law code is entitled “The bountiful and Christ loving Macedonian Czar ” (The Ravenica Transcript). Dustin is also designated both in the Sofia and the Zagreb transcripts of the Law code as “Macedonian Czar”. By the way, he was born and crowned in Skopje, Macedonia.
As stated by the French Byzantine scholar P. Lemerle, “Macedonia in the 7th and 8th centuries was more Slavonic than Greek” (P. Lemerle, Philippes et la Macedoine orientale a l’epoque chretienne et byzantine, Paris, 1945, 115-6)
According to G. Ostrogosky, Macedonia was at this time lost to Byzantium “and found itself in the hands of the Slavs . . .” (G. Ostrogorsky, Vizantija i Sloveni, Belgrade, 1969, 12)
Even when the Slavs came to Macedonia, the native inhabitants, the Macedonians, had continued to exist and, after the extinction of the Ancient Macedonian state in the 2d century BCE at the hands of the Romans, as F. Papazoglu writes “maintaining their ethnic characteristics, their language, their belief and customs” (F. Papazoglu, Makedonski gradovi u rimsko doba, Skopje, 1957, 4; A. Shofman, Istoriya Antichnoi Makedonii, I, Kazan, 1960, 1960, 177, ff.; ibidem, Ocherki po istorii Makedonii i makedonskogo naroda, I, Kazan, 1960, 32 ff. )
The usage of Macedonian and Macedonia separate from Greek or Bulgarian and Greece or Bulgaria is more than obvious. Also these sources are objective, old and clear, and do not offer any further interpretation; that is how they prove the existence of the Macedonians as a Nation with this name in this region, separate from the Greeks and Bulgarians in many ways. The fact that old documents call these people Macedonians shows that the Macedonians aren’t an artificial creation, but a nation with a homeland and a name-Macedonia and Macedonians.