Saturday, August 02, 2008

Ilinden the Underlying Historical and Ethnological Background, Part 2

Continuing from Part 1

Another skopjan(FYROM) contention, and one on which they lay particular stress, is that “the Macedonian nation was divided into three parts, etc.”. This is clearly an attempt to press the clumsy Skopjian (scientific) argument that there is a distinct “Macedonian” people (or a distinct “Macedonian” ethnicity) which has been divided amongst Greece, Bulgaria and Serbia, that these countries have thus not freed Macedonia but swallowed it, etc.

With your indulgence, I must say that I find it difficult to answer such clumsy fabrications. For this ingenuous contention simply abolishes the Macedonian Greeks, who from 1871 until 1908 pursued the Macedonian Struggle and who, by official Ottoman statistics, in 1905 numbered 678.910 souls in the vilayets of Thessaloniki and Monastir alone, as compared to 385.729 Bulgarians (nor do these statistics mention “Macedonians”). It also ignores the declaration of Lord Salisbury, the British Minister of Foreign Affairs, who on June 19, 1878 told the Congress of Berlin that “Macedonia and Thrace are just as Greek as Crete” (cf. Documents diplomatiques franηais, Affaires d’Orient. Congrθs de Berlin 1878. Paris MDCCCLXXVIII. Prot. No 3, Sιance du 19 Juin 1878, p. 85). It further ignores the March 11, 1912 treaty between Greece and Bulgaria, on the basis of which in the 1908 elections for the Ottoman parliament the Greeks had ten seats in Macedonia and the Bulgarians three.

Nor does this treaty mention “Macedonians” (cf. Charles Velay, L’irrιdentisme hellιnique, Paris 1914, pp. 101-102). It ignores, too, the pamphlet which was circulated in Philippoupolis in 1885 to mark the thousandth anniversary of the death of Saint Methodios, which is mentioned by the French professor Victor Bιrard [La Turquie et I’Hellιnisme contemporain, Paris 21896 pp. 191- 193)] and which is an official declaration of the claims of the Bulgarian Exarchate: this pamphlet stated that “the Bulgaria of San Stefano could never have been abrogated if Macedonia as a whole had been imbued with the same national consciousness that pervades the Bulgarians of Bulgaria”. There are no “Macedonians” in this declaration either. It also ignores the fact, reported by Professor Bιrard (op.cit., p. 229), that between 1877 and 1887 the tremendous efforts put forth by the Greeks of Macedonia had tripled the number of schools (from 102 to 333) and more than tripled the number of pupils (from 4.639 to 18.451), so that by 1907, according to Michel Paillarθs (L’Imbroglio macιdonien, Paris 1907, pp. 420-421) 59.640 pupils were enrolled in 998 schools. It ignores, too, what Professor Bιrard has to say about his journey through Macedonia in 1892 (op.cit., p. 125): he relates that in the district of Achrida he met a Bulgarian-speaker, who told him: “Our forefathers were Greeks, and none of them spoke Bulgarian”. This district of Achrida, let it be noted, had been a bastion of Hellenism since the 12th century, according to Constantin Jire'ek, Minister of Education in the Bulgarian Principality (Die Geschichte der Bulgaren, Prag 1876, p. 211). And finally, let me return to Victor Bιrard for one final point: Professor Bιrard, who was anything but pro- Greek, writes that the Bulgarians themselves say that in 1867 Macedonia was entirely Greek (op.cit., p. 189).

All these Greeks [of my lengthy dissertation “The liberation of Thessaloniki as a symbol of national integration” (introduction by Styl. Kapsomenos), Thessaloniki, Aristotle University, 1968, which has also been printed in English (I.B.S., No 140, Thessaloniki 1973); cf. also my communication to the Sarajevo Conference, in Balkan Studies 17.2.1976, as well as my communication to the Athens Academy (1989) entitled “Refutation of the article on ‘Macedonia’ in the new Australian Encyclopaedia ‘Australian People’ in the Acts of the Athens Academy, vol. 64 (1989) 82 ff)], all these greeks then the authenically indigenous Greeks, were not liberated during the Balkan Wars (1912-1913) but constituted a segment of the “Macedonian” people, in the Skopjian sense of the term, which has been oppressed, which has been deprived of the right of freedom of association, which is the object of persecution, banishment, execution, humiliation, etc.

For the sake of discussion, let us accept that the old Bulgarians, those who in current Skopjian theory “considered” themselves Bulgarians and who, in fact, lived in Macedonia, as a minority community, however, as is apparent from the Ottoman statistics for 1905, have erroneously been taken as constituting a segment of the “Macedonian” nation. As we have said, however, these people were Bulgarians: they never (at that time) called themselves “Macedonians”; they fought as comitadjis in the ranks of the Bulgarian Committee; and later, in 1924, taking advantage of the Kafantaris-Molov agreement on the “voluntary exchange of populations”, they left for Bulgaria. None of them moved to what was then the district of Skopje –which, moreover, was at that time certainly not called “Macedonia”: it was merely “Vardarska Banovina” (Directorate of the Axios), an administrative district of the then Kingdom of Serbia. Serbia consequently delivered a protest to the Greek government for having exchanged these people for Greeks living in Bulgaria when, according to Serbia, they were in fact Serbs, (not, of course, “Macedonians”). All the “Bulgarophones”, as they were called at that time, who remained in Greece were old Patriarchists (adherents of the Ecumenical Patriarchate) from the time of the Bulgarian Schism, veterans of the Macedonian Struggle: “Grecomaniacs” (passionately Greek), in the words of the Bulgarians and their descendants.

The following discussion on the nationality of these Bulgarian speakers, which Michel Paillares reports (op.cit., pp. 50-51) having had with Hilmi pasha, the Inspector General of the Macedonian vilayets of Monastir and Thessaloniki, is significant:

Paillares: But these Bulgarophones insist that they are really Greeks?
Hilmi: They say they are Greeks when no coercion, no constraint, is brought to bear on them.
Paillares: And what is your opinion, Your Excellency?
Hilmi: My opinion, and the opinion of my government, is that they are Greeks. We classify our subjects according to which schools and which Church they attend. Being unable to win people by peaceful propaganda, the Comitadjis do not hesitate to make use of the most atrocious methods. They turn to the knife, the revolver, the axe.

It is equally significant that much earlier, in 1871, the Russian Goloubinskii (see the relevant note in my dissertation on “The liberation of Thessaloniki”, op.cit., pp. 25-26) had written:

These purported Greeks nourished a more implacable hatred and a more intense scorn for all things Bulgarian or Slavic than did real Greeks. Just recently my attention was drawn to a passage in the magazine Tachydromos, an extract from a book by Giovanni Amadori-Virgili, a former Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs, entitled “La questione Rumeliota (Macedonia, Vecchia Serbia, Albania, Epiro) e la politica italiana”, published in 1908 as number 1 in a series by the Biblioteca Italiana on foreign policy. The passage in question reads:

Through their partiotic sentiments and their devotion to Greek traditions and Greek culture, the Slav-speaking Greeks of Macedonia express their vigorous determination to be Greeks.

Legally, after the population exchange, the subject was closed, for those who remained were those who did not want to leave Greece, who did not choose to be Bulgarians. Nowhere is there any mention of the term “Macedonians”. If today certain of their descendants have discovered that they are “Macedonians”, that does not alter the situation, because it was to them, or at least to some of them, that the Skopje radio station addressed its March 5, 1990 broadcast, saying that “the most dangerous ones are those same hellenized Macedonians, the traitors, the anti-Macedonians” (here I would merely recall the slogan launched in 1895 by the Bulgarian Committee: “Death to the Grecophiles”).
After all this, then, how many “authentic” indigenous “Macedonians” did Greece have, according to the Skopjians?
And after all that, how is it possible to maintain that there was a single “Macedonian” people, which was dismembered and divided among Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria?

Let us take a closer look at what is currently being advaced on the subject of oppressed “Macedonians”. The Skopjians(FYROM) tend to contradict themselves, now proclaiming the existence of 300.000 oppressed “Macedonians” in Greek Macedonia (this was the figure given by Simovski: cf. Peter Hill in the draft for the new Australian encyclopaedia and my communication to the Athens Academy, op.cit., p. 97), now 230.000 (Skopjian radio, 25 September 1991). In a recent statement to “Nova Makedonija” (29 July 1992), Kiro Hatzivasilief declared: “As to how many of this ethnic group (“Macedonians”) there are living in Greece, unfortunately no one has precise statistic data”. And let us not overlook Mr Sidiropoulos (an ethnic “Macedonian” activist in Greek Macedonia), who affirmed on an Australian national television broadcast that the number of “Macedonians” in Greece amounted to no fewer than 1.000.000 (!).

Given that Greek Macedonia today has 2.200.000 inhabitants, even if we accepted the figures advanced by Skopje as valid, the population of Greek Macedonia would still be overwhelmingly Greek. It has been shown, however, that the “Macedonian” population described as having been dismembered in 1912-1913 was not in fact “Macedonian”, but in its vast majority Greek then, and wholly Greek following the exchanges that took place, which have already been discussed. The numbers propounded by the Skopjians have no relation to reality; they have no basis in scientific or census data or in anything else; they are just meaningless numbers. In spite of this, however, the Skopjians continue to talk of a “Macedonian” people (dismembered, as we have already metioned), both of the segment living in Greek Macedonia, which they call “Aegean Macedonia” (Egeiska Makedonija), and of that in Bulgaria, which they refer to as Pirinska Makedonija. It should be noted that, with respect to Bulgarian Macedonia, too, the Skopjians advance different numbers, now speaking of 178.862 oppressed “Macedonians”, now of 230.000 (cf. Skopjian radio broadcasts on September 29, 1990 and September 25, 1991 respectively), but never mentioning the total population; and so here too their argument of a “Macedonian” nation divided into three cannot be taken seriously.

I am not, of course, referring to Skopjian Macedonia (the former Vardarska Makedonija) which, according to the official Skopjian census of April 1991 (the results of which were announced on Skopjian radio on December 2, 1991 and published in the German review Die Welt on February 28, 1992), out of a total population of 2.033.964, has 427.313 Albanians, 97.416 Turks, 55.575 Gypsies, 44.153 Serbs, etc., none of whom claim to be “Macedonian”. (I also note that Mr Sali Berisha, President of the Republic of Albania, declared in a recent statement that the number of Albanians in the Republic of Skopje totalled 800.000). The census makes no mention of Greeks living in the Skopjian Republic; but in response to Greek Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Ms Virginia Tsouderou’s statement that there are a number of Vlach-speaking Greeks in their country, the Skopjian government replied (indirectly, via Skopje radio, in a broadcast on November 25, 1991) that the “Association of Vlachs” of (Skopjian) “Macedonia” had declared in an official statement that the “Vlachs” of “Macedonia” (Skopjian “Macedonia”), and by extension the “Vlachs” of (Greek) Macedonia, were “Vlachs”, not Greeks, and act as such. In his study of the activities of the (Greek) Bishopric of Pelagonia (Monastir) (Dejnosta na Pelagoniskata Mitropolija 1878-1912, Skopje 1968, pp. 35-43), Krste Bitoski, a contemporary Skopjian writer, says inter alia that:

These Vlachs, most of whom were fanatical Grecophiles, gradually came to constitute the Bishopric of Pelagonia’s principal allies in its struggle for the advancement of Greece’s Great Idea. By the middle of the 19th century the churches and the schools in the city of Monastir were all in Greek hands.

What has become of these “Grecophile-Vlachs”?
While it is true that many of them settled in Thessaloniki, Florina, Athens, etc., where they maintain flourishing associations and where they occupy eminent positions in the Greek State and in Greek society in general, many of their relatives, often close relatives, have remained in their formerly flourishing “Greek Orthodox communities”: Krushevo, Megarovo, Tirnovo, Gopesi, Milovista, Nizopolis etc.

And in answer to the question which arises with regard to the relatives living here of the “Macedonian political refugees”, who (the refugees) were denied both repatriation and the right to visit Greece freely, the question “Why, since (the political refugees) are not considered Greeks, should their relatives in Greece be so considered?”, I would return another question: “How can those designated in “Macedonia” as “Vlachs” and not “Greeks" not be real Greeks, when their relatives here (who fled to Greece) are not only Greeks but very prominent ones?
And how can these “Vlachs” of “Macedonia” not be Greeks when, as is well known, they are the descendants of those “Hellenophile- Vlachs” described by Krste Bitoski?
And how can the Vlachs living in Greece not be Greeks, of whom Victor Bιrard, the former Professor of the Sorbonne whom I quoted earlier, wrote most truly in another work (La Macιdoine, Paris 1897, pp. 329-240):

The Vlachs have been .... signal benefactors of the Greek nation. Almost all Athens’ monuments - the Academy, the Observatory, the Polytechnic School, etc. - are the work of Vlachs. Almost all the great donors, whose gifts and legacies have helped the Greek state and Greek communities, were of Vlach descent. Baron Sinas was a Vlach from Moschopolis; Doumpas was a Vlach from Nikolitsa; Tossitsas, Stournaras and Averof were all Vlachs from Metsovo. Without the Vlachs and their wealth Greece would have lost the cities of Western Macedonia well - Krushevo, Milovista, Monastir itself – for Greek claims here were pressed solely by the Vlachs.

Again, in La Turquie et L’Hellιnisme Contemporain (Paris 1896, p. 249), Professor Bιrard writes:

The Vlachs’ sole ambition was to become day by day ever more Greek and to propagate the Greek faith. They became the greatest benefactors of the Greek people. They left the finest bequests, they raised the handsomest buildings for the people of Athens, they founded in Athens the finest charitable and educational institutions in the whole Greek world.
And since there are some who affirm that the Vlach-speaking Greeks tend to be pro-Romanian or are of Romanian descent –another argument offered by the Skopjians to refute their Greek roots– let us see what Professor Bιrard has to say (ref. as above) about the Vlach-speakers who settled in Romania itself:

With respect to the Greek communities in Romania, in particular, and their great wealth, they are constituted solely by Greek Vlachs who, with one foot in Greece and the other among the Vlachs pour an endless stream of Romanian money into Athens, seemingly pumping wealth out of Romania’s abundance in order to relieve Greece’s poverty... It is Vlach money that pays for the Greek schools in Macedonia.

I shall continue with testimony from an Italian source: Giovanni Amadori-Virgili, quoted earlier (op.cit., no. 13) writes without hesitation:

From earliest times the Koutsovlachs have felt themselves to be Greek. Their sense of Greekness developed freely and spontaneously, the result of the habits of centuries. Just as in the past, from the Byzantine era to the Turkich period, the Vlachs of Pindus, Achrida and Thessaly had adopted all the characteristics of Greek culture, so now too they have embraced the Greek national consciousness, the final product of Greek civilization.

Even Kordatos (op.cit., vol. I, Athens 1957, p. 38) accepts that the Vlachs of Thessaly considered themselves Greeks. But what need have we of other testimony, when the Romanian Inspector himself, Lazarescu Lecanda, writes in a memoire, at the request of the Romanian government (November 26, 1901):

We have enough schools, teachers, professors and priests for the expansion of our national education: what we are lacking is a Romanian people....

For a more detailed development of this topic, see my study entitled “More about the Vlach-speakers”, in a volume dedicated to K. N. Triantaphyllos, Patras 1990, pp. 73 ff). Meanwhile, with your permission, I will close with one final observation: as the newspaper Makedonia reported on April 15, 1992, the international media have given great publicity to the discovery by Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Mrs Virginia Tsouderou that according to a secret census, later suppressed as unacceptable, 18,6% of the population of the Skopjian Republic declared themselves to be Greeks. In view of the official census cited earlier, this means that a total of 380.000 people in that state either are or proclaim themselves to be Greeks.

That is enough both about History and about the present situation!

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