The Development of the Idea of the Macedonian Nation

SSituated between the Slav Serbs and Bulgarians and the non- Slav Albanians and Greeks, forming the southernmost fjord of the Slav sea, on their road to national affirmation the Macedonians too have their own history which is of interest to scholars studying the theory of a nation, Contemporary scholarship mainly agrees on the geographic determination of Macedonian territory. It is a country situated in the central part of the Balkans, bordered by Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece and Albania (Encyclopedia Italiana, Roma 195, 750- 761, Encyclopaedia Britannica, The Enciclopaedia Americana, Bolshaya sovetskaya enciklopediya, 15, Moskva, 1974, 233-238, Brockhaus Enzyklopaedie, Mannheim, 14, 19 Auflage, 1991, Grand Dictionnaire Encyclopedique Larousse, 6, Paris 1984).

Before its dissolution in 1767, the Ohrid Archbishopric was for more than eight centuries practically the only institution in Macedonia which united the Orthodox Macedonians, and thus ensured their development as a nation. After its dissolution a large number of churches and monasteries became isolated, despite contacts with the spiritual center on Mt. Athos and hopes of Orthodox, Slav, but distant Russia.

The first books in Cyrillic and in the Macedonian language were printed by Joakim Krchovski (1814) and by Kiril Pejchinovich (1816), and in Salonica in 1838 the first Macedonia press was opened, where the first text books in Macedonian were printed. The first secular Macedonian school was opened in Veles in 1837 and the first poems in Macedonian were published in 1858. In the resistance to Hellenization, Slav Orthodoxy was emphasized, which as a result of the medieval inheritance, had surfaced as Slavo-Bulgarian. However, during the 1840’s the Macedonian population came into contact with Bulgarian literacy and the Bulgarian language, and in so doing differentiated themselves simply as Slavs (a name which had no ethnic differentiation) they took the name of their country. A swift period of “Macedonization” followed. A Russian Slavist conducting research in Macedonia in 1844-5, V. I. Grigorovich, noted:

“In all areas that I visited I heard no names but those of Alexander (the Great) and Marko Krale. They both live in the national memory as figures of general significance.”
(Viktor Grigorovich, Ocherk puteshestviya po Evropeiskoy Turcii/s kartoyo okresthostey Ohridskago i Prespanskago ozer, Izdanie vtoroe, Moscow, 1877, 139).

At this point in time, in 1858, seeing that the struggle to re-establish the Ohrid Archbishopric would not meet with success in the heartland of Greek Orthodoxy, The Macedonians from Southern Macedonia (centered on the town of Kukush) accepted Uniacy with the Roman church and in so doing ensured the use of the church Slavonic in Churches, Macedonian in schools, and independence of the Greek Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople.

Within Macedonia there was resistance to Bulgarian influence and one can note reactions like the following:

  • It was one thing to be a Bulgarian and speak Bulgarian, another to be Macedonian and to speak Macedonian and statements like “we are Macedonians not Bulgarians” (Edin istinen makedonec, Edna istina, Pravo, V, 40, Carigrad, 30.XI 1870).
  • Even the leader of the Bulgarian renaissance in Constantinople, Petko R. Slaveykov, publicly admitted in his article of January 18th, 1871 “The Macedonian Question”, that “about ten years ago, from some parts of Macedonia” he heard about this idea, which apparently became “an idea that many people would like to breathe life into”. He confirms that “on many occasions” he heard “from Macedonian activists that they were not Bulgarians, but Macedonians, heirs to Ancient Macedonia . . .They are entirely Macedonians . . .” (P. R. Slaveykov, Makedonskii vprosi, Makedoniya, V,3, Caregrad, 18.I 1871, 2).
  • J. Capodistria, a Greek by origin, although a Russian minister, suggested that a Macedonian state be formed after the disintegration of Ottoman Turkey (M. K., Sbornik ot ruski gledishta vrhu vkovnata ruska politika na Balkanit, Sofia, 1915, 26) as did Ami Boue, explorer and expert on European Turkey, who supported the idea of a confederation on the peninsula, Macedonia with its two million inhabitants to form a central state, approximately equal size to Greece, significantly larger than Serbia or Bulgarian and with predominantly Slav population (Ami Boui, Essai sur les limites des provinces de la Turquie d’Europe, Memoires de la Sociiti de Giographie de Geneve, 1862, III-Livraison, 236).
  • The Constantinople Conference of Ambassadors (1876-7)the Russo- Turkish War (1877-8), the treaty of San Stefano, and the treaty of Berlin (1878), left Macedonia in its pre-war situation. Dissatisfied with the decisions made in Berlin, they started a new, large-scale uprising (Kresna 1878-9) Soon afterwards a meeting of the National Assembly of Macedonia was organized (Arhiv Vneshney Politiki Rossii, AVPR, Moskva, f. Posolstvo v Konstantinopole, 1880, d.2276, op.517/2, l.208-10 s ob.), and a transitional Government in Macedonia was elected in 1880 (Ibidem).
  • At this moment the promised Organic Constitution for Macedonia and the Final Solution to the Eastern crisis were in view. At that time the Macedonian Brotherhood was alive in Athens (L’Autonomie, I, 4, Londres, 1, VII, 1902, 3), Leonodas Vulgaris was elaborating the idea of a Balkan confederation (Svoboda, I, 83, Sofia, 12.IX 1887, 1-2; II, 116, 13.1 1888, 3;II 118, 10.I 1888, 3-4) and Stefan Damchev Makedon was working on the mutual Albano-Macedonian initiative to obtain autonomy for Macedonia and Albania (Albano-Makedonia, I, 2, Bucharest, 25/6.I 1894, Glas Makedonski, I, 10, Sofia, 30.I 1894, 4; Yugozapadna Blgariya, I, 22, Sofia, 7.II 1894, III-IV; Sglasie, I, 42, Sofia, 16.III, 1895, III; L’Autonomie, I, 4, 1.VII 1902, 1-3).

There are may other sources revealing the fact that the term Macedonia, Macedonian and Macedonian language was used more than just 50 years ago, and I am sure that one can find the opposite as well. However, the facts I mentioned above exist, and prove that the Macedonian state is not an artificial creation by the post-WWII Communist regime in former Yugoslavia, led by Tito, but a natural outcome of the struggle of the Macedonians for a state in their homeland – Macedonia.

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