Saturday, November 08, 2008

What Is The National Character Of The Macedonian Slavs, part 2

This clearly recognized fact, incidentally, caused the great 19th century philologists, who laid the groundwork for a systematic study of this language to call it, in the early stages of its development, Old Bulgarian. The language employed by Sts.Cyril and Metodi, St.Klement and St.Naum and a host of other medieval writers and teachers is an old Bulgarian idiom.

Please allow me to make a personal remark in this context. When I, in the spring "of 1931, began to study Slavic philology at the University of Munich, we used the famous handbooks and grammar of this language written by the celebrated German Slavist, August Leskich. These books described and analyzed the phonology, morphology, vocabulary syntax of a language which unequivocally was designated as Old Bulgarian :Handbuch or Grammatik der Altbulgarichen Sprache. It is also true that the term "Old Church Slavonic", most frequently used nowadays, was sometimes applied to this language, but one should keep in mind that this term is basically meaningless, at least up to the times of Peter the Great. In the course of his secularizing transformations and reforms, Peter favored the introduction of the Russian vernacular into common usage, relegating the then library language of the Muscovite Tsardom, still based as it were on Old Bulgarian, to purely liturgical and ecclesiastical purposes. This practice was later followed by other awakening Slavic nations, especially those of the Orthodox
faith.profoundly. Nevertheless may it be said here, in parenthesis only, that the Old Bulgarian imprint on the native language of the Russians was so strong that even nowadays authoritative scholars in the field of Slavic linguistics and philology, such as Boris Unbegaun, speak with good reason about the partially Old Bulgarian character of the Russian standard literary language.

Thus, the fiction of Macedonia as "Southern Serbia" could not be maintained in the long run because it really held no water. Even responsible Serbian leaders could not close their eyes to this fact. Even the Yugoslav Ambassador in Sofia, Mr.Milanovich, in a moment of deep crisis for the Yugoslav State, that is in the summer of 1940, saw fit to forward to his master in Belgrade the Prime Minister Slojadinovich, a statement from Macedonia received in Bulgaria on the situation in this region. Here we read: "Everybody has to know that today Macedonia is not lost for Bulgaria, but on the contrary, there exists a healthy Bulgarian spirit more than ever. Some call themselves Macedonians, but this is due to the terrible reaction which the name Bulgarian provokes in the Serbians. It is well known that all injustices, robbery and violence create reaction and disgust. This is exactly what the Serbians have achieved in Macedonia. When they came to Macedonia they knew that Bulgarians lived in this country. That is why they thought, by crude measures and lawlessness, to frighten the people and to win them over for the Serbian cause. But all was in vain. And now they are surprised at the anti-Serbian feelings in the hearts of the majority of people. The common wish of the people is : Let Gypsy come, only let this one, the Serbian, go away. Anathema to any Bulgarian who will forget his own brothers.".

The war and its aftermath did away with the Pan-Serbian military-bourgeois monarchy. Overboard went what Marxists call Bourgeois nationalism and chauvinism. But let no man be deceived that the substitution of the old order by the dictatorship of a Communist party and its leader spelt the disappearance of an expansionist Greater Serbian nationalism. Had the means employed between 1912 and 1940 been crude and brutal, and therefore in the end unsuccessful, new devices had to be invented, this time more clever, more insidious, in order to attain the same goal. This time under the banner of a Yugoslav Communist Revolution! If we have failed so far wean away the Macedonians from their Bulgarianism, because we tried so hard to make them into Serbians, well, then let us now try to insinuate that they arc neither Serbians nor Bulgarians, but a separate national entity, for instance, Macedonians with their own history, language and culture; but let us also make it perfectly clear to them that only we here in Belgrade are willing and able to guarantee this artificial nationality concocted in the test tubes of Serbian Communists and their non-Communist predecessors. The whole Macedonian nation and the so called language -this I wish to affirm here before you- is not a philologicum, but a polilicum designed according to the well tried maxim of old: divide et impcra - divide and rule.

History teaches that a ruler, a parly or a leading group which enjoys unlimited power and has the will to use this power ruthlessly for the attainment of its goal, has always found partisans, advocates and adherents prepared to do the bidding of those at the helm of the state, sometimes against their own belter knowledge. Wasn't it one of the great cynics on the throne.

Henry the VIII of England, who said when planning something particularly outrageous and arbitrary "let me first carry out this measure, afterwards I shall always find professors at Oxford to justify it". So it is no wonder that in Skopie and elsewhere the Belgrade government should have found learned collaborators who fell for their line. I think that under the circumstances prevailing one should not judge them and their zealous efforts too harshly.

But it is deplorable that scholars abroad with solid academic reputations and achievements, who are not exposed to the pressures of the intellectual under totalitarian regimes, should also swallow this latest Belgrade bait hook, line and sinker. Can they really accept the thesis that, contrary to
their own testimony and conviction, people like the Miladinoff brothers, Gregory Perlicerr, Alexander Todoroff, Damjan Gruev, Gotse Delceff, Peju Javoroff, Anion Strashimirof, Dimitr Taleff are Macedonians in the sense of the word bestowed upon it with the blessings of the Belgrade party bosses?

And what about men who figure so prominently in the Pantheon of Bulgarian letters like Ivan Vazoff and Teodor Trajanoff who lived and worked in Bulgaria proper, but whose family background is Macedonian, Bulgaro-Macedonian that is. What about such a significant figure of the
Bulgarian Renaissance like Raiko Zhinzifoff from Veles, who declared in 1963 in his Novobulgarska sbirka - or did he, perhaps, call it Novo-Makedonska sbirka? "As Bulgarian language we regard that language which is spoken in all Macedonia, Thrace and Bulgaria proper. The differences between the dialects are negligible. Every Bulgarian who does not suffer from nearsighteness cannot designate a certain expression as "Macedonian" or "Thracian"., for there are no "Macedonians" or "Thracians" as individual nations, but only Slavo-Bulgarians - in short, one Bulgarian people and one Bulgarian language".

One could object here that this is a voice from the long forgotten depth of the 19th century. One could also maintain that Zhinzifoff, with all his linguistic and folklore erudition, was not up to par with regard to the achievements of philological science, that is that we in the 20th century know better now. Let us then examine a few testimonies belonging to our century.

Let us first listen to the voice of practical common sense, the voice of a man who would never lay claim to the reputation of a learned academic linguist. The opinions of this man, however, deserve to be listened to attentively and carefully because they are based on the profound national experience of a statesman and a leader of his people, Ivan Mihailoff. In his

book, Makedonia
: A Switzerland of the Balkans, edited and translated by Christ Anastasoff, he makes the following observations pertinent to the linguistic problem: "Like the scholars of different countries who were familiar with Macedonia, so also did the Turkish authorities and all the rest of the objective observers consider the Macedonian Slavs as Bulgarians.

This was not only upon the basis of the logically had introduced in their schools, but on the basis of all other ethnic features by which a given nationality is judged. The local dialects of the Macedonian Slavs arc basically considered by all as Bulgarian language. Every nationality employs its own common literary language, while in every nationality meets different dialects. As far as the Bulgarian dialects in Macedonia arc concirned they do not vary very much from the rest of the Bulgarian dialects as, for instance, do dialects among the Germans, Italians and other nationalities. The dialects of the Germans in Switzerland is, perhaps, the most difficult for all the rest of the Germans. But that did not prevent the Swiss of German origin to consider as their own the common German literary language. Precisely so, before the appearance of the regimes of national oppression in Macedonia after 1912, the native Bulgarians officially used that literary language which is common for all the Bulgarians of the world and to the formation of which the cultural workers of Macedonia have contributed a great deal."

This point of view deserves to be firmly kept in mind, especially in view of the artificial construction of a new "Macedonian" nation and language as commanded from above. For this purpose the chief perpetrators of this dubious enterprise now take great pains to smuggle into this newfangled synthetic idiom all sorts of Serbanianist and other foreign ingredients so as to alienate the Macedo-Bulgarians from their historical, cultural and linguistic matrix.

But what has the linguistic science of the 20-th century to say about these attempts to deny the Bulgarian character of the Slavic idiom spoken in Macedonia? Here I cannot go into the details of the linguistic argument adduced by international scholars, to refute the claims. To note that Professor A.M.Selishchev, the eminent Russian philologist, in his article entitled "Macedonian Dialectology and Serbian Linguistics" already in 1935 destroyed the claims of Serbian scholars like Velich, Djordjevich, Pavlovich and others that the idiom spoken in Macedonia is closer to Serbian than to Bulgaria should be enough. This task he performed in a thorough scholary way, basing himself upon the findings and achievements of modern linguistic research in the field of Slavic philology. Whoever is interested in the course of his irrefutable reasonic can study this article in a volume recently published by the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences under the title L'histoire Bulgare dans les Ouvrages des Savants Europeens.

Professor Selishchev cannot be suspected of any sort of polilicing. He has worked in Russia under the old as well as the new regime; following nothing, to the best of his abilities, but the dictates of his scientific conscience. It is remarkable to see how to this pure scholar and cabinet savant, far as he was from the passionate turmoil of the political motives behind the scientific smokescreen spread by the named Serbian scholars. He said: "The aim of all these books is the same: namely, to furnish an historical, ethnographic and linguistic justification for Serbian domination in Macedonia - to furnish this justification by means of true scholarship. The arrogance in the style, the irony with which the Bulgarian people are treated is another common feature of the books of Belgrade professors. In the case of Professor Georgevich this irony borders upon downright rudeness. On the other hand, everything Serbian is idealized. The attempts of the authors of such books to clothe their products in a science-like garb must be unmasked. The true character of their content, harmful to all science, must be demonstrated". The results of the linguistic and ethnographic research in the field of Macedo-Bulgarian studies undertaken by Professor Selishchev not so long ago match the findings not only of the Bulgaro-Macedonian philologist Krusle Misirkoff, which he published in 1910-1911, but also of a number of 19th century Serbian scholars like Stefan Verkovich, Tuminski, A.Hadzic, Vasa Peladic and others. That authors like Selishchev, Misirkoff and Verkovic working at different times and under completely different circumstances should have arrived at the same results, with regard to the Bulgarian character of the dialects spoken in Macedonia and their geographic extensions points to two noteworthy qualities of their research Its exactitude and its factual and logical consistency, in view of which all the counter-arguments of Serbian and Pseudo-Macedonian opponents take on the suspect colouring of sophisty and political expediency.

More proof was recently given for the Bulgarianism of the Macedonian dialects by the Bulgarian philologist Blagoi Shklifoff in a paper about the idiom spoken in the area of Kostur. From the evidence he is able to muster, it becomes perfectly clear that the Kostur dialect cannot be used to buttress the hypothetical existence of a separate and individual Slavic language called Macedonian, but that here, as elsewhere, we deal with but another variant of the Bulgarian language as spoken by the Western half of the nation.If indeed, this is the conclusion at which Mr.Shklifoff arrives, the dialects in Macedonia are by their character intrinsically different from those spoken in Moesia and Thrace, then these differences would have to show more than anywhere else in the dialect of Kostur, the area of which borders on two non-Slavic linguistic regions, located geographically distant from the other Bulgarian dialects. A strictly scholary approach to this idiom, however, cannot but establish its basically Bulgarian character. The paper by Mr.Blagoi Shklifoff was published in 1968. Sclishches's analysis and demolition of the claims raised in 1935. But the same position and results are visible in the book about Macedonia by the Czech Balkaniologic Vladimir Sis which was printed in Prague in 1914 and came out in Zurich, Switzerland in 1981 in a German translation. After Sis enumerates all the factors which effect the closest mutual correspondence between Old Bulgarian and the Modem Bulgarian language as spoken also in Macedonia, he points to certain philological peculiarities by means of which the Bulgarian language is distinguished from all other Slavic language, Serbian included. After a painstaking comparison between the Bulgarian standard literary language and various dialects spoken in Macedonia, he arrives at the following conclusion which I shall quote here verbatim "Whoever is familiar with the basic structural principles of the two neighboring languages must, even though he may not be a philologist, arrive, on the basis of the examples cited here, at the same conclusion to which also the French slavicist, Louis Leger, came, and I repeat his words: The Macedonian Slavs are Bulgarians and speak a Bulgarian dialect. be continued

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