The Struggle for the Macedonian Language in Mid-Nineteenth Century
In past discussions of our cultural history, the period of the renaissance or revival is treated almost exclusively as a process of a literary and philological character, and mainly from the viewpoint of the internal structure of the language and the analysis of Macedonian textbooks of the nineteenth century. However, the struggle for the retention of the Macedonian language involved a larger portion of the intellectual circles (educators, priests, etc.), that is, not only those that were concerned with the writing of textbooks. Not having at their disposal sufficient personal, technical and other means, nor the organization to make it free and organized, they were forced to make use of the bourgeoisie press, in a publicist manner, in the form of articles which they published in their own mother tongue. Although they did this with any sort of plan or agreement, it can be seen from an analysis of the texts that even at that time, in the field of journalism and with journalistic means they expressed the idea of the individuality and independence of the Macedonian language, and through it, of the Macedonian nation.
The newspapers of the mid-nineteenth century and up to the Berlin Congress, especially the Constantinople papers, “Constantinople News,” “Macedonia,” “Justice,” “Times” and others, abound in such articles and in other journalistic genres – reports, descriptions, correspondence, commentaries, polemics, etc., some of which will be discussed in this article.
It is well known that the Bulgarian bourgeoisie, already well organized during the earliest period of the renaissance and especially after the founding of the Bulgarian Exarchate, began conscious and organized activity in all fields of social life, aimed at proving Macedonia to be a part of Bulgaria. This would later be a basic component of the of all rulers of the free principality. The “national” concept has not been abandoned even by modern Bulgaria.
One of the means used by the Bulgarian socialists and politicians even in the earliest period for putting this plan into effect was the press. Besides fulfilling a need for expressing cultural life and problems in general, the main goal of almost all newspapers of this period was to wage a battle with Macedonia, a battle which was expressed in various ways, most often as a struggle to increase the sphere of usage of the Bulgarian language and the geographical distribution of Bulgarian schools and churches, in short, the Bulgarian national consciousness of the Macedonian nation. We need only mention the fact that special newspapers were established to accomplish this goal, as for example “Macedonia,” edited by Slaveykov in Constantinople, a newspaper dedicated to the realization of this idea. There were, in addition other news-papers of this period “The Danube Swan”, “Bulgaria”, “Advisor”, “Justice”, “Turkey”, etc.) which shared this task. Here is how Macedonia, for example, treats this struggle for Macedonia:
… But let us state what is primary and most important for the time being, and this is Macedonia. First of all, Bulgarian schools must be opened in every city, if possible in every village of this land, classical for Bulgarian and for Slavic literature in general, in order to eradicate the unclean infection of Hellenization… Let the true path be taken towards education in the father tongue… The introduction of the Bulgarian language among the Bulgarians of Macedonia will be of great aid in the rapid development of the Bulgarian language, which is of no less glory than the Greek..,” etc. (Citation from the introductory article in Macedonia).
And to tell the truth not only the Bulgarians but also a great number of Macedonian correspondents took up this struggle and began to apply to their own land the adjective “Bulgarian” (as in Bulgarian Macedonia, the Bulgarian church, Bulgarian school, etc.) This is a fact which cannot be denied but rather, from a thorough investigation of the background of relations of this period, in regard to the correspondents and editors, it can be seen that the former were largely dependent upon the latter and that the editors, frequently without the knowledge of the correspondent, edited and corrected the material. From an analysis of several texts by these correspondents it can be seen that there was frequently not only alteration of the substance of the text but also of the language. Thus, for example, in the newspaper Danube Swan, edited by Rakovski, there appear two reports written by Dimitar Miladinov. The first is published in a pure Ohrid-Struga dialect, while the second is in Bulgarian. In an article by I. Hadzhov entitled “Dimitar Miladinov and Rakovski”, published in the journal “Father Paisi” (XVI, 2~3, 1943, p.66) dealing with the difference in language between these two reports, it is stated that “for his own reasons Rakovski altered the language, the vocabulary and the orthography of the report, unifying it with the language and the orthography adopted by the Danube Swan.” Hadzhov concludes that the second report was actually a compilation of several letters which Miladinov had sent to Rakovski on other occasions, and that the latter had written the report himself! I repeat, a systematic analysis of the texts of the reports will show not only the “corrections” in the language, but also various additions to or subtractions from them, in accordance with the personal taste of the editor of the newspaper.
However, unlike the numerous run-of-the-mill correspondents, who were of course directed by the demands of their editors, there existed, among the more aware Macedonians, those who, possessing a better understanding of the situation, did not hesitate to point out the great differences between the Macedonian and the Bulgarian nations. These were the first Macedonian journalists, who, apart from fulfilling their desire to express themselves, describe events, and comment on sonic issue or problem, attempted to give to their reports a national, Macedonian, coloration.
One of the essential characteristics of the period of the Macedonian revival is the emphasis on those national features which characterize it as a separate nation, distinct from all others, among them Bulgarian and Serbian, to which it was closest. The supporters of the revival emphasized these specific features not with the aim of distinguishing themselves from the Serbs and Bulgarians, but rather to show that they were all, including the East and West Slavs, branches of a common Slavic tree. This can be noted in D. Miladinov’s typical point of view, as expressed in connection with an invitation from the citizens of Kukush for him to come teach in Kukush. D. Miladinov answered this invitation in the following letter to the residents of Kukush, written October 24, 1857:
With satisfaction I read your friendly letter and with joy I learned of your noble feelings towards Slavdom and the formation of our nation. You did quite well in writing to Partenia (referring to Partenia Zografski, of Galichnik), who is in Constantinople in search of the necessary books. I jump of joy when I observe your aspirations and your love of your mother tongue, and especially in view of the fact that the majority of your young people and priests have resolved to learn the Slavic language, so that within a few months they might be able to hold divine service in our ancient ancestral language. The Greeks have an erroneous opinion of you. Show to them your Slavic pride! They are defaming our Slavic language, one of the oldest and richest tongues, calling it barbarian! Point out to them the Slavic philosophers, physicists, mathematicians, and other educated people from Russia, Bohemia, Dalmacia, Poland, Galicia, Slovenia, and Croatia, an area extending, so to say, from the interior of Germany to Epirus and Thessaly …”
These reflections of D. Miladinov would deserve a more thorough analysis if the question were to be posed and considered in its other aspects. From the aspect, which interests us, we will restrict ourselves to stating that there is a broad, in modern terms, national basis to the views of D. Miladinov concerning the nature of his own, in modern terms, Macedonian nationality, and that this is also the basis of the attitudes of the other Macedonian leaders of the national revival. All of them are advocates not of partition but of the equal treatment of Macedonia and of respect for its national features (language, culture, and, in general, the Macedonian way of life.)
Yordan H. Konstantinov-Dzhinot, from an analysis of his work carried out up to now, may be considered as the first Macedonian journalist.
He is known to have been correspondent for one of the first Bulgarian newspapers in Constantinople, the Constantinople News. Dzhinot and the editors of this newspaper waged a silent battle over his language. Yordan was a prolific writer and sent to the paper contributions of various sorts (report, travelogues, descriptions of customs) minor literary works in the form of dramas, etc.) However, all of these were written in a language which the publishers had difficulty in understanding. The editors were in a dilemma whether to publish them. unable to decide whether to return his contributions, they came out with an article, printed in number 55, 1851, in the column “Bulgarian”, where various important cultural problems were treated. A general review is given of the development and state of the language, leading up to a concluding attack upon Dzhinot and the writers from Skopje for their incomprehensible language. The reader will best understand the substance of the issue in reading the article itself, a part of which we cite below:
“As concerns Mr. Yordan’s language, anyone can see that it is quite different from our spoken and literary language, so that upon first reading it will appear not only incomprehensible but completely unrelated. And to tell the truth, this language, which claims to be Bulgarian, in essence identical to our language, is actually derived from the Church Slavonic literary language, but, however, in appearance, for example in the pronunciation of words and in its constructions, has so many individual features and peculiarities that a foreigner can more easily learn and speak it than can a related Bulgarian. May the people of Skopje and those speaking similar language forgive us, for they neither understand nor can they speak our language.”
Partenia Zografski is known as the clearest example illustrating the tendency for equal treatment of the “Macedonian dialect”, as he terms it, within the framework of an eventual common language for the Macedonians and Bulgarians. It is well known that he advocated the creation of a “general literary language” as a common language for both nations, whose formation as national units was within sight. Here are his basic ideas on the subject:
“The Macedonian dialect not only need not and should not be excluded from the general literary language, but it would be well if it were to be used as the primary foundation, for the reason that it is more sonorant, more melodious, more stately, and in many respects more complete and richer…” “Bulgarian Pamphlets” book I, part I, January, 1858, in his article “Thoughts on the Bulgarian Language”).
Partenia suggested, in connection with this idea, that changes be made in the writing of the alphabet along with other language reforms, but, we must repeat, based on mutual respect for the specific features of each of the two dialects.
Such views, as expressed by Partenia, not only failed to find sympathy but were actually condemned by the Bulgarian philologists and social scientists. Thus in issue 336 of Constantinople News B. Petkov comes out with polemics against Partenia. Later these polemics developed into a full scale altercation, in which other Bulgarian philologists participated. However, it is characteristic of the situation that Partenia was supported by some of the Bulgarian philologists. Thus, for example, Constantine Rayanov of Plovdiv sent to the isolated Partenia a letter, which the latter sent to Bulgarian Pamphlets and which was published in January 31 issue. In it we find, among other things:
“I am so sorry that I can not bear it, and I would be even sorrier if I were to see you, sir, ceasing to use your mother Macedo-Bulgarian dialect, which in my opinion surpasses all dialects of Bulgarian in its harmony and sweetness, and which for this reason is particularly suitable for the writing of poetry.”
Later Bulgarian Pamphlets (in its September 15, 1895 issue) calls Parteni’s language, in a categorical tone, “a great change from “Bulgarian and Serbian” or a “Bulgaro-Serbian dialect” and concludes with the following advice:
“Father Partenia, whose right hand we kiss with the greatest respect, should give us his attention when we note that it is not in keeping to write a book for the whole nation in a local dialect and that he would be better off to observe how the majority of the people speak, and thus he could use [his language] and be used”
The essence of this argument, which marks Partenia as a true mar of the renaissance period, a period when the fate of two nations was being decided, the Macedonian and the Bulgarian, nations which were individualized even at this time, is Parteni’s realization that a single language should be created from these two as yet unformed languages a language which would eventually serve a single future nation, to emerge from the struggle against Turkish political and Greek spiritual oppression. Seen from the viewpoint of the times, this was an advanced and correct approach. But the Bulgarian social scientists were by no means willing to accept Parteni’s ideas, but rather kept to the policy of non-recognition of the Macedonian dialect and, added to this, of assimilatory policies even in the linguistic sphere. Why the Bulgarian philologists and social scientists behaved in this manner can best be seen
from a citation deriving from a biography of Partenia Zografski written by Lazar Dimitrov in 1905:
“It is easy to see why the criticisms of Parteni’s books are severe: it did not please the current literary figures in Constantinople, who were exclusively from Thrace and Myzia, to see the Macedonian dialect being used as a literary language an attitude which they held at the time first, because they were not familiar
with the dialect and considered it to be some sort of hybrid between the Serbian and the Bulgarian dialect, and second, in order to prevent the beginnings of a movement among the Macedonian scholars calling for the use of a West-Bulgarian dialect as literary, all the more so because such a movement already existed: the first literary figures, Kiril Pejchinovich and Yoakim Krchovski, had taken the lead in such a struggle. This school includes Constantine Dzhinot of Veles, Gligor Prlichev of Ohrid, and Rayko Zhinzifov, a most zealous and unyielding member of Partenia’s school”.
As far as Prlichev is concerned, he is a typical representative of the school, in that he preserves all specifically Macedonian linguistic features. This can be seen from his writings and speeches. However it is characteristic of Prlichev as well as of the earlier men of the revival period that his language was absolutely intolerable to Bulgarian critics. On the occasion of Prlichev’s translation of the Iliad, we find a comment on his language in an article by his son Kiril, entitled “Towards the Characteristics of Gligor S. Prlichev”, published in “Macedonian Review”, IV-2, 1928, p. 108, which, after presenting the characteristics of his language, comments:
“This is Prlichev’s language… It is the same in his autobiography.”
When speaking of Prlichev it should be noted that he was responsible for a great amount of progress in the development of national consciousness. While the other men of the renaissance were battling with Bulgarian philologists and social scientists in the field of language, Prlichev came out with a developed nationality, in modern terms, Macedonian consciousness, with the sense of being a Macedonian. This can be seen clearly in his speeches, from one of which we include a citation. It was delivered before his fellow teachers in the Salonica Gymnasium, to commemorate the feast of the Holy Saints Cyril and Methodius. The speech concludes with the following famous and nationally colored words:
“But what have I said? I have erred! Forgive me. It is an insult to say that a person from Macedonia cannot give birth to great men. On the contrary, Macedonia is fertile and of infinitely noble lineage. How lovely are its flowers, lovely and graceful and clever. How great is its power of growth, and no less great is the power of its inhabitants. Thanks to you, colleagues, for you will be the nurturers of the youth of Macedonia; nurturers who are noble in spirit, noble in appearance, likable, noble in thought. Your joy at the newborn young of Macedonia will be equal to the joy of the mothers who gave them birth, therefore, nurture them, 0 respected and self-motivated laborers of the fertile Macedonian land. Many fruits are expected of you. The holy saints Cyril and Methodius look down upon you from the heavens with a benevolent gaze, watching over you and blessing you. Thanks especially to our State Patrons, the Salonica Bulgarian Gymnasium will bring forth many more Cyrils and Methodiuses, who will be the beacons of our schools, a blessing to our churches, the Pillars of Faith and the glorifies of the Macedonian name. Amen.”
In the struggle of every nation for its historical individuality (and this is confirmed by history), language is one of the basic features and means of national emancipation. Therefore the mid-nineteenth century Constantinople newspapers, especially Macedonia, as an organ aimed at awakening a “Bulgarian national feeling among the Macedonian Bulgarians”, turned frequently to the problem of the language used by the correspondents from Macedonia, when they sent in reports written in the Macedonian language.
One anonymous correspondent from Ohrid, in issue 47, of October 21, 1867, of Macedonia, submitted a report of polemical character written in the Macedonian language. The editors made haste to publish in the same issue of this publication, at the end of the report, the following commentary:
“Taking advantage of the case of the publication of this article in the same orthography in which it was submitted, we will not fail to point out to our scholars [the term used in the original is “educated men”) that it is well to preserve ourselves from this temptation, a new source of division and a new obstacle to our progress. We ourselves were at one time advocates of and great supporters of this system, but with the course of events we have learned from experience its difficulties and disadvantages, as well as the ruinous consequences to the unity of literature, a necessary condition for the unity of the nation. We have neither space nor time to concern ourselves at length with this issue, which, unfortunately, our scholars have abandoned and left aside prematurely but our opinion in brief is that we should keep to the current form of the language, without stepping outside the bounds of the orthography of the older manuscripts, which is in keeping with the spirit of the language and reflects historical development. Let us not reject words which are a part of today’s language, but let us select words which were used in the extant liturgical books and which are not found in today’s language and use them as required, first borrowing from the language of the church and them from Slavic roots, rather than inventing new words which will not be understood by others. But we will discuss this at greater length at another time and in another place.”
Let us continue. The well known Macedonian renaissance figure Georgi Dinkov, who states that he is an archaeologist, entreated Slaveykov, editor of Macedonia, in issue 34 of July 20,1868, of the publication, to continue to publish his article entitled “Information on the Macedonian Lands”. The article is in Macedonian and the author states in his introduction:
“Since I have explained to you the reason which have impelled us to investigate our national monuments and antiquities, whose description you have had the opportunity to read, I flatter myself with the belief that Your Mercy will forgive my loquaciousness as well as the use of my own Salonica dialect, which, if it does not contain all the beauty of Cyril’s language, nevertheless is quite archaic, in that it contains a fair number of Sanskrit words, as you will see below”.
Next there follows the first part of his article “using the Salonica dialect”, which does in fact contain the “beauty of Cyril’s language”.
In response to this article the editors of Macedonia again came out with a commentary, in a shorter version:
“We are to some extent carrying out the request of our friend, but still we do not hesitate to invite him and all workers in the field of education from that land to decline from using the Macedonian dialect or newly-invented orthographic Systems, but rather let us take as the basis for our orthography that of the old manuscript books and use the grammatical form of this language, and as for the words, let them be local. Unification for the establishment of a single literary Bulgarian language is today more interesting for us than the investigation of Sanskrit and other languages. As in the case of every language our language as well will regard as correct and proper that which is most widely used”.
In one article in Macedonia doubt is cast upon the language of the editor of the Bulgarian part of the local organ appearing in Salonica, and it is pointed out that there existed the danger of this language “penetrating among the populace as a language and giving new occasion for the birth of a schism in our literature… and especially when this dialect has retained only a few tattered rags of pronunciation, decayed and spoiled from the influence of Hellenization”.
The Salonica correspondent in Macedonia has quite the opposite opinion. His article with the challenging signature “a Macedonian”, appearing in issue 14 of March 2, 1868, surveys the problem, concluding:
“In truth there is nothing more disastrous for our nation than for the Macedonians to accept a dialect which is in your opinion completely different, but our literature will suffer deprivation if they do not write in this dialect, because the dialect is not only neither so rotten and spoiled from Hellenization as is Upper Bulgarian (in Thrace and Myzia) nor from the influence of Turkomania, but has retained (preserved) until today a fair number of valuable elements from [the language of] Cyril and Methodius. I do not know whether you have had the opportunity to travel within the Macedonian lands and to gain a firsthand acquaintance with the dialect of the common people”.
The editors of Macedonia followed up the opinion of this Macedonian with the following commentary:
“We have not the time to enter into long discussions and evaluations and to answer the correspondent from Macedonia. We have not been to Macedonia, but we have made many observations on the Macedonian dialect and we will not debate the issue of which dialect is more decayed and spoiled, but will comment in passing that both have preserved and lost much of the old dialect, and that there is no place here for such fine points of honor and childish altercations, but which dialect is more sensible and more useful is the question we should consider today.”
Along with these caustic comments regarding the Macedonian correspondents, the mid-nineteenth century Constantinople newspapers contained reports from Macedonia in the “Macedonian dialect”. Whether this was the reason or whether something else had occurred which is not reflected in print, Macedonia, in its third issue, of January 18, 1871, carried out its promise to discuss this issue “at another time in more detail”. Thus this issue of Macedonia contains a long and major article entitled “The Macedonian Question”, from which we present excerpts, with our comments.
The title itself implies that the issue of language had grown into a national “Macedonian” question. But language is at the center of these “National” misunderstandings. The article begins in a somewhat alarming tone:
“At last the Macedonian question had come to light in print. We say “at last”, because this is not a recent issue Ö We would have had no desire to bring up the issue if it were concerned only with the area of textbooks, for we seen no harm in someone wishing to teach his children their native dialect… The guilt here lies in choosing a path such as will lead to dialect division rather than to unification, to agreement…”
However, the problem concerns not only the specific features of the Macedonian “dialect”. The Macedonian question has other aspects as well:
“Many times we have heard from the Macedonians that they were not Bulgarians but Macedonians…”
Further on, “proof’ ‘is supplied that the Macedonians are not Macedonians but Bulgarians.
“They stubbornly claim for themselves a Macedonian origin, which they are in no way capable of demonstrating as it should be demonstrated. We have read their History, which states that a small nation of Macedonians lived in Macedonia, but we have found no mention of which tribe they derived from, and the paucity of Macedonian words preserved in the Greeks writers completely negates such hypotheses…
And all at once, “out of the blue”, although there was already a populace,
“… the Bulgarians came, expanded their rule far and wide, and established an empire in Ohrid, in the fatherland of some of the so-called Macedonists. They lived in these areas for a long time and assimilated the entire population…”
And now comes the crux of the argument:
“Who can tell us that they are not of Bulgarian blood?” The article supplies other “proofs”:
“Certain Macedonists distinguish themselves from Bulgarians for other reasons as well, mainly that they are pure Slavs and that the Bulgarian are Tartars and God knows what else!”
Or, another proof:
“In order to support their arbitrary explanation, the Macedonists point to the dialects, Macedonian and Upper-Bulgarian, of which the former is supposed to be closer to the Slavic language, and the latter mixed with tartarisms, etc.”
It is not possible to gain from the article a clear idea of the arguments of the “Macedonists”, at least of those who favored not schism but the equal treatment of the Macedonians and Bulgarians. If we take as typical the views of Partenia Zografski, which we have already presented, then this article strikes at the foundations of a movement which aims at emphasizing those features of the Macedonian nation which make it separate and distinct from the other nations, including the Bulgarian nation. It follows that only as a separate nation, with its national characteristics, can it associate and unite with other nations, including the Bulgarian nation. Actually, at the end of the article the author, purposing to treat the essence of the problem, skips over it very superficially and, as will be seen later, insincerely. Namely, the article concludes with what should have served to introduce it:
“We are convinced that the desires of the Macedonists must have other origins and that one has to do here with a degree of inequality between the Upper and Macedonian Bulgarians, as concerns both numerical superiority and progress. The Macedonists may think that the Upper Bulgarians will always have the upper hand in national affairs, since they are more numerous and more aware, and that the Macedonists will remain in second place. This is the meaning of the words of the Macedonists: “We have freed ourselves of the Greeks – are we now to fall into other hands?”
Slightly more than a year later the newspaper Pravo took up this question. The occasion for this was given by the revivalist writer Banjamin Machunkovski. Namely, he published in the Constantinople newspapers a notice which called upon his fellow countrymen to help him in publishing his “grammar of the Macedonian dialect”. Immediately after this, the October 30, 1872 issue of Pravo carried an article entitled: “A Bulgarian Grammar in the Macedonian dialect written by Mr. Machukovski”. The article was written by P. Ivanov.
Although the article was purportedly in response to Machukovski, the author used it for settling accounts once again with the “Macedonists”, a derogatory term for those Macedonians who struggled to emphasize their national individuality. Because it is characteristic for the problem under discussion, we will give a few excerpts from the article. After an introduction stressing the idea of national unity and integrity, the author turns to Machukovski
“But let us begin with that which inspired me to write this. In one of the most recent ‘issues of the newspaper Pravo, Mr. Machukovski, recognizing the practicality and great success involved in the publication of a grammar of the Macedonian dialect, hit upon the idea of publishing it, and requested his brothers from Macedonia to help him in this, God only knows how lovely, endeavor. Some new recruits, when asked what they would like to become in the army, replied that they would like to study to be officers. Thus our Machukovski would like to be recognized as a grammarian at any cost. And does he not deserve this? The man has written a Bulgarian grammar in the Macedonian dialect. What do you wish to say by this, Mr. Machukovski?… Are you not agreed that we all be together? Are you not agreed that all Bulgarians should speak one correct, pure literary language? What is your aim in publishing this Bulgarian grammar in the Macedonian dialect, which, since it is in the Macedonian language should be called “bugarska” and not “b’lgarska” (the Macedonian and Bulgarian terms for Bulgarian, respectively – translator’s note).
The author, after some more highly ironic questions and exclamations, continues:
“If Mr. Machukovski wishes to put together an entirely new grammar for the Macedonians, he is in error. I have stated that the Macedonian dialect is a deformed Bulgarian language which has fallen under the foreign influence of the surrounding (nations], and in order to remedy this, it is not necessary to put together a new grammar but rather to submit it to the rules of the present Bulgarian grammar.”
As can be seen, the case of Machukovski is particularly severe, and, it might be said, lies outside the bounds of a normal discussion. If the Bulgarian critics, chose to treat others in a different, so to say in a diploma tic manner, they saved all their wrath for Machukovski. At any rate, the aim of this polemical article was to prevent such activities by all those who had the intention, by whatever means, to demonstrate their Macedonian-ness.
The struggle for linguistic independence of the Macedonian nation developed as part of a unified ethnographic and geographic whole. These documents published in the Constantinople newspapers speak for such a unified Macedonia, including both Pirin and Aegean Macedonia. During this period and in this part of Macedonia the Greek language, which had been expelled from schools and use in divine service, was replaced with Old Church Slavonic, which the people understood no better. Because of this the newspapers contained articles expressing the dissatisfaction of the citizens and an appeal for the replacement of this dead language with a living spoken language. With what sort of language? Here is one article from Bansko (in Pirin Macedonia), published in Macedonia in the April 6, 1868 issue and signed Nikola Pop-Filipov.
“Mister Editor of Makedonia,
Many of our fellow citizens, Macedonians, having expelled the Greek language from our churches [for use] in divine services, have replaced it with Church Slavonic, from which few have any gain, or, better said, they haven’t the slightest use: because they understand it as well as Greek and they have not been exposed to a single ray of enlightenment in order to be able to understand the words of the divine service, i.e. the prayers, blessings and glorification which are directed to God and the church when. they are gathered together there…
I am quite amazed that some of our scholars have not yet turned their attention to correcting this situation, since they know that they are responsible for the spiritual and moral education and since they know that the apostle Paul, in his epistle to the Corinthians, said: I want to say five words in the church in a familiar language, and not one thousand in a foreign language And again; whoever speaks, (sings or reads) in a foreign language, speaks to the wind. This is the advice of the apostle Paul on this matter in chapter 14.
It is also desirable for our scholars to agree in drawing up a language common for all dialects, in which there will be written a dictionary and a grammar, and into which common language the books for divine service will be translated before anything else..
The textbooks which have been translated into the Bulgarian “Balkan” language up to now were only slightly more intelligible to us Macedonians than those written in the Church Slavonic language. Thus they have been of little use to us”.
The case of Kuzman Shapkarev is well known as regards the emphasis upon Macedonian linguistic independence. He was often the subject of attack by Bulgarian philologists and social scientists. Such attacks can be found in many of the newspapers of this period. We will give an excerpt here from the June 30, 1975, issue of Den (Day):
“Ohrid. Correspondence from this city.
In issue number 18 of Den in a report from Veles, it is stated that Mr. Shapkarev has intentions unfavorable to our nation in wishing to divide the Salonica region of Bulgaria from that of the Danube area. This is not the truth. We wish to assure you of that. Mr. Shapkarev desires nothing other than basic school books, intended for our land and written in the local dialect, so that the children can understand them more easily and not lose time as they do now with the “Fatherland Language” [primer] and other similar books.”‘
The report, which is the fruit of the sincerity and the good sense of an ordinary citizen of Ohrid of this period, could not remain without comment. It was followed by the editors’ comment, which takes up more space than the article itself. Here it is:
If this is so, let us take and publish for every region or for every district separate primers and books, so that the children can more easily understand them, and then we will blossom and begin to grow! What worse ideas could we have than this, Mr. Shapkarev? Today primers, tomorrow other textbooks, the day after tomorrow other books, and, before you know it, even a history of Macedonia, etc. etc.
Mr. Shapkarev would do better to take up some more conscientious work and to give up this idea, because it does him no honor.”
In issue No. 29 of June 15, 1868, the Veles correspondent, in one of his articles, puts across the atmosphere of holiness devoted to the educators Cyril and Methodius, and in the second part of the article tells of the successes of the women’s school, ‘in which there were seven examinations. Then the correspondent enumerates by class the subjects in which the girls took examinations. And to the editor’s amazement, the first class is examined in the Serbian language, and the third in Serbian history. The Bulgarian language and history are not represented in any class. It follows from this that their main concern was not to learn the Bulgarian language and history but for their children to learn something. And since this teacher (Maria Nedeva), who had been brought from Belgrade, found the Serbian language and history more familiar she included them in the program. It can be seen clearly from this how indifferent the people of Veles were as to whether their children were to learn the Bulgarian language and history.
This article, too, was followed by a harsh commentary, laced with bitter chauvinism directed at the “Unenlightened” people of Veles. The following is taken from the final passage of this criticism:
“We would like to know, as would the people of Veles, to an even greater extent, to be given proof as to whether they are Serbs or Bulgarians, and if they are Bulgarians, would they explain to us why they teach their children to speak and read the Serbian language and Serbian history? If they have been deceived into thinking that Serbian history is more glorious than Bulgarian, we will show them that they are in error and that it is shameful for the citizens of Veles, who we know to be clever and sharp-witted, to allow themselves to be deceived by charlatans and bribery, and to be deceived in full awareness. There is nothing more humiliating than for someone to renounce his own nationality, no matter what type of person and of what origin he may be. Not we, but the world can bear witness to the fact that the pages of Bulgarian history are no less glorious than those of Serbian history, and we can always be proud that our Bulgarian race is in no way inferior to the Serbian, and in some respect has certain advantages which the Serbs cannot deny. Because of this, by the way, are we to renounce our own heritage, and to ape foreigners? Is this to be expected from intelligent people? For what have we taken people of Veles up to now? We do not wish to criticize anyone, particularly our neighboring brothers, of a single faith and blood with us, but we cannot go against that natural law which teaches each to respect and to protect his own.”
In the struggle for a modern literary language (which was the consequence and manifestation of the national awakening), at a time when conditions existed for the establishment of a single common society, which, as we have seen, was advocated by our citizens and philologists, there were, of course, certain basic assumptions. These were, that the Macedonian dialect was closest to that language which had been created by Cyril and Methodius and their disciples Clement, Naum and others. But, as we have seen, the Bulgarian philologists and politicians were unfavorably disposed towards this dialect terming it “defiled Bulgarian or Serbian”. However, history has demonstrated that there is no way to force a nation, with a culture formed ages ago, to be assimilated. The Bulgarian politicians could not or would not accept this, neither in the past nor today. Such, in modern terms, chauvinistic outpourings infected even the more progressive Bulgarian social scientists. The extent to which they were upset by this can be seen in the following discussion of the characteristics of Rayko Zhinzifov, by Luben Karavelov: “If you ask us, we will say that the verses of Mr. Zhinzifov are bad because he is not gifted and because he does not know Bulgarian”. (The excerpt is from journal Knowledge, number 5, 1885). It follows that only someone who knows Bulgarian is fit to compose verses!
The statements and examples cited in connection with the problem of the language of the revival period show that this was the primary problem, no matter in which form the ideas were expressed (in textbooks, journals, etc.). At the same time there was nothing else to be done. Those two nations were in the process of national formation, and historical law states that this process calls for a demonstration of the specific features of each of them. Despite all “proofs” of the Bulgarian historians and even of the “Marxist” scholars that the men of the Macedonian revival had declared themselves as Bulgarians, the above examples, taken from the files of journalism, are evidence of the fierce struggle of the most alert sons of the Macedonian nation for their own national embodiment, even if at certain moments, most often under pressure from certain extraordinary political and other conditions of life under Turkish oppression, they were forced to do so. That this emphasis upon specific Macedonian characteristics and differences not only in language but in the lifestyle as a whole of these two nations was not an “error or exception”, is illustrated later (after the liberation of Bulgaria), when this problem was taken up by a number of other men, who developed the ideas of the revival period, among them Krste Misirkov, Kosta Shakov, Petre Pop-Arsov, Stefan Yakimov-Dedov, and many others, and treated in journalistic (in the publications Vardar, Grapevine, the newspapers Macedonia, Macedonian Voice, Balkan Herald, Balkan and others, in which, unambiguously and frequently despite the risk of severe consequence, as was so in all the cases discussed, the writers spoke out for an independent Macedonia.
Original names of newspapers mentioned in this article:
Constatinople News Carigradski Vestnik
Danube Swan Dunavski Lebed
Bulgarian Pamphlets B’lgarski Knizhici
Macedonian Survey Makedonski Pregled
Macedonian Voice Glas Makedonski
Balkan Herald Balkanski Glasnik
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