This is the first issue in the series of "Macedonia: and the Macedonian Question".
Throughout the series, we will be inviting emminent academics and political figures from around the world to view, examine and comment on this most difficult of socio-political problems.
The series will deal at length with all aspects of the question, from the ancient movements and settlements of peoples to the most up-to-date polls and censuses; from the manipulation of people by the use of force and terror to the more insidious techniques of modern propaganda; and from the development of early slavic languages to the present, unprecedented accusations of the creation of a new, "literary standard language", all of which have been used to convince a people of who they are and what they are not!
Ultimately, this publication hopes to help the efforts being made to set straight the problems within the region known as Macedonia and to disentangle the knot of misinformation, hidden facts and lies, all of which has resulted in particular interpretations (or misinterpretations) of history. This is the legacy of many periods of instability, dating back to the 1877 - 78 Russo-Turkish War and the Bulgarian liberation, the Berlin Treaty of 1879 and decades of Serbianization and of the far more protracted and subtle Hellenization of the Southern region of Macedonia. Of course, the last 45 years of totalitarian rule has done more to bury the truth than any other single force, but this series will endeavour to confront the expantionist nationalism that presently seeks to continue its history of falsification and oppression of the Bulgarian character of Macedonia.
By presenting the views of outside observers and "innocent bystanders", we feel sure that this series will help to give the clearest and most objective view of the problems and their best solutions and will serve as an essential
companion to the other publications, concerning this problem, which have more "involved" contributors.
We are certain that, in the end, by careful work and study, the truth will out and real and, above all, just solutions will be found and adopted.
First of all please allow me to express my sincerest gratitude to the President of this Organization and to the Committee for having afforded me the precious opportunity of addressing this Conference. Time is short and I do not want to claim your attention longer than is absolutely necessary. I honestly feel that perhaps my justification for speaking to you about the problems of Macedonia is somewhat flimsy. What are my credentials? It is true, I am a professor of Slavic and East European Studies, but as far as my teaching and writing is concerned, Russia and, more recently, Poland have come more closely under my observation. I hope , nevertheless, that you might forgive me my boldness to appear here before you when I refer to a point of saving grace in my favour: I love the Southeast of Europe, and five wonderful years of my life were spent in Bulgaria in the capacities of an academic teacher and a public servant. There I had the opportunity of meeting people from all walks of life, of making myself familiar with the history, the culture and living conditions of the country and last but not least, of striking up close and firm friendships, some of which have survived the trials and tribulations of the catastrophic events which living through has been our common lot. I also availed myself of the possibility of making a trip to Macedonia and, although the journey was short, places like Kratovo, Skopic, Veles, Shtip and Goma Dzumaya are for me not merely names, geographic nomenclature or statistical data, but I can say: I was there; I saw, I listened and heard; I have not forgotten!
I will not go into a presentation of the manifold facts of history, ethnography, linguistics, folklore and statistics which bear testimony - and I think this testimony is incontrovertible - of the Bulgarian character of the Slavic-speaking population settled in Macedonia. Whole libraries, have been written to establish the Bulgarianism of the Macedonian Slavs and I believe that many of you are much more intimately familiar with this vast literature than I could ever be. And, Indeed, it would be absurd if I, a mere outside observer, and only an occasional one at that, would presume to teach you things which you not only know, but live.
Let me, however, point out one circumstance which in my eyes, has profoundly changed the whole situation. Up to the Second World War the Bulgarian Macedonians, after the retreat of Turkey from Europe, had to struggle incessantly for the preservation of their heritage against the encroachment and machinations of the Pan-Serbian circles, carried under the slogan that Macedonia is nothing but Southern Serbia; and on the other hand they had to fight the absurd notion propounded by Athens, that the Bulgarian-speaking Macedonians are but "Slavophone Greeks". That would be the same as if the English would assert that the French-Canadians are but "Francophone" English people! Recent events have taught us what reactions to expect from the French-Canadians if such insinuations were to be made.
I believe, however, that it was easier to counter the Pan-Serbian claims, even though they were dressed in the political scholarship of men like A.Belie and Jovan Cvijic, because here was only the matter of a spirited and well-reasoned defense against the illegitimate ambitions of expansionists, which was, at bottom, still old fashioned nationalism. And this is still the situation in which the Macedo-Bulgarians find themselves under Greek rule.
I wish,however, to call your attention to a much more sinister device concocted in Belgrade under the sign of the Red Star, the Hammer and the Sickle. That the invention of a separate Macedonian nation, a Macedonian
literary language and even a Macedonian history, is divorced from all the evidences of historical research and scholarship. By sophistry and the distortion of the historical facts it is said, for example, that St.Clement
of Ochrid was a member of some separate Macedonian people which has never exited, and that the language used by the apostles and teachers of the Slavs for the christianization and the enlightenment of the Slavonic world was a separate Macedonian idiom, which has nothing or only very little to do with the Bulgarian language as such.
In order to find some historical foundation for these unproven and undemonslrable allegations, historians of this school have even restyled the West-Bulgarian Kingdom of Tsar Samuel as a state run for the benefit of the mythical separate Macedonian people. Let me quote only one authority, the eminent Russian byzaniologist, A. A. Vassilijev, whose monumcnted history of the Byzantine Empire is generally considered a standard work in this field. What has he to say about the national character of Samuels Kingdom?
"Afler the death of John Tzimisoes the Bulgarians took advantage of the internal complications in the Empire and rebelled against Byzantine domination. The outstanding leader of this period was Samuel, the energetic ruler of Western independent Bulgaria, and probably the founder of a new dynasty, one of the most prominent rulers of the First Bulgarian Empire." In the entire passage dealing with this heroic, as well as tragic episode in Bulgarian history, Vassiljev consistently uses the term "Bulgaria". In a footnote, it is true, he mentions the hypothesis put forward by the Serbian historian D.Anastasijevich that Samuel's Kingdom was not lawfully Bulgarian, but a "Sloveno-macedonian Empire". But quite obviously he does not make this hypothesis his own. I think that in the market of international historical scholarship the authority of Professor Vassiljev rates considerably higher than that of Mr.Anaslasijevich. Another noteworthy fact that is such attempts to deprive the Bulgarians of their history and heritage by declaring that they were not Bulgarians at all, had already been made in the years soon after the First World War. This shows that the recent creation of a separate non-Bulgarian Macedonian nation, complete with history, literary language, folklore, etc., by fiat from above, does have its precedent.
Let me quote from a symposium entitled, " The case for an Autonomous Macedonia" compiled and edited in 1945 by Mr.Christ Atanasoff.
One of the crown witnesses summoned to testify was the well-known British Balkan expert. Miss Edith Durham. In 1931, she wrote the following in the paper La Macedonian, published in Geneva: "During the Balkan War there was a Serbian schoolmaster - an Austrian subject - at Cetinje, who taught German in the boy's school. He rejoiced greatly over the conquest the Serbian army was making in Macedonia. It would add much valuable land to Serbia. An Englishman said to him: "Oh, but Serbia cannot annex these places, they are all Bulgar". The inhabitants put the article after the noun. This is well known as a Bulgar peculiarity. The Serb replied: "That does not matter. When our army has been there for two years, you will find no articles after nouns there, I can assure you". But, in spite of torture, murder, imprisonment, the Bulgai article still lives on at the end of the noun."
Since it was not possible to do away with that stubborn post posited article by administrative matters, comprising the whole gamut from violent suppression to persistent persuasion and bribery, a new tack had to be tried. The article was declared not to be a peculiarity of the Bulgarian language, but also a characteristic of a hitherto non-existent separate Macedonian language.
In parenthesis let me say this: Since the disappearance of the classical, semi-Hellenic Macedonian Kingdom of Philip, Alexander and Perseus in Roman limes, the terms "Macedonian" and the "Macedonia" have been used as geographic terms for that area in Southeastern Europe, which is still known under this name. Since the middle ages it has been inhabited predominantly by Slavo-Bulgarians and by minorities of Albanians, Valachians, Turks, Greeks, Gypsies, Jews and, as the statistics of the 19th and 20th Centuries show, surprisingly few Serbians.