Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Bulgarians in Greek Macedonia, part 1

[From the book “Nationalism and Communism in Macedonia) by Evangelos Kofos, Institute for Balkan Studies, pages 100-102]

Occupation in Eastern Macedonia

In less than two weeks after the German invasion, and without technically declaring war on Greece, [1] Bulgaria proceeded to literally in­corporate the Greek region of Eastern Macedonia within her realm. The Greek Government-in-exile was, thus, compelled to issue on June 11, 1941, a declaration stating that “a state of war should be considered as existing between the two countries." [2] The Bulgarians spoke and acted as if the regions they occupied had reverted to them permanently. In a speech be­fore the Sobranje on September 28, 1941, King Boris declared:

Thanks to this cooperation [with the Germans and the Italians] Macedonia and Thrace, these lands which have been so loyal to Bul­garia, which have been unjustly detached from her, and for which Bulgaria has been compelled to make innumerous sacrifices in the span of three generations, have now returned to the fold of the Bul­garian Motherland. [3]

Officially the Germans had not given their approval to Bulgaria's outright annexation of the territories, but the fact that no official protest was registered could be construed as a tacit consent. [4]

On June 10: 1942, a decree was published in the Bulgarian Govern­ment Gazette (No. 124) regarding the nationality of the inhabitants of the "liberated territories." By virtue of this decree, Bulgarian citizenship was automatically conferred upon all persons of "Bulgarian" descent residing in the "liberated regions" (Article 1). All other inhabitants were to become Bulgarian citizens by April 1, 1943, unless they declared their desire to retain their nationality or acquire another one. In either case, such per­sons were obliged to leave the "Bulgarian State" (Article IV). Presumably to make the opting for the Bulgarian nationality more attractive, Article VIII of the decree specified that all persons acquiring Bulgarian nationality were to be exempted from all taxes, levies and contributions. [5] The autho­rities were clearly aiming at the Bulgarization of the Greek regions through forced eviction of the Greek element and mass colonization of Bulgarians from Bulgaria. [6] This course of action was presumably chosen on the as­sumption that a future Peace Conference would be faced with a fait ac­compli with respect to the Bulgarian possession of these lands since the ethnological composition would, by that time, favor the Bulgarians. The procedure of evicting the Greek population was amply described in a study prepared by a team of Greek professors who conducted an on-the-spot in­vestigation immediately after liberation. Excerpts are quoted below:

At first individuals were expelled, later whole groups of inhabit­ants... Mass expulsions began in July (1941), when the Bulgarian Government had been persuaded by the results of the census of the population, that their strenuous efforts to alter the national consci­ence of the Greeks had failed... The order of priority was as follows: first were expelled those whose origin was from Old Greece, then refugees from Asia Minor of a generation ago, then families from the shores of the Black Sea, the Caucasus and Eastern Thrace —settled in Western Thrace and Eastern Macedonia according to the Treaty of Lausanne on the exchange of populations—lastly Greek families native of the place. [7]

The place of the evicted inhabitants would be taken by thousands of Bulgarian settlers. Premier Filov laid down the main terms of the co­lonization program in an interview published in the German newspaper Borsen Zeitung on November 11, 1941 :

In a few days we will begin with the colonization of the Aegean area... Thousands of Bulgarian families will be transported and set­tled in this area within the next weeks and months.

According to the Bulgarian Premier, the settlers were to pay the Bulgarian State for the dwellings and other buildings they would occupy which belonged to the Greek inhabitants who were forced to flee. On its part, the State undertook to provide them with transportation, and to those who were farmers, with agricultural loans on convenient terms. [8] Thus, many thousands of Bulgarians did settle in these regions. [9]

Parallel to the colonization, the Bulgarian Administration tried to alter the Greek character of the region by forbidding the use of the Greek lan­guage, closing the Greek schools, changing the Greek names of the streets to Bulgarian, and destroying many statues and memorials. [10] All these meas­ures, plus murders and other deprivations forced at least 200,000 Greeks to find refuge in German or Italian-occupied Greece. [11] Such was the pre­vailing situation when Colonel Chrysochoou, under the cover-title of Su­pervisor of Nomarchies, was sent to the region by the Athens Government, with the knowledge and consent of the Greek Government-in-exile. In a moment of despair he proposed that the Government in Athens prepare plans to assist the mass evacuation of the population and its transfer to German-occupied Greece. [12]

At the end of the war the feelings of the Greeks, and especially those living in the Northern regions of the country, toward their Bulgarian neigh­bors, prompted a British observer to remark that "the only brotherly senti­ment which Greek Macedonians felt towards the Bulgars was a disposition to raise Cain. [13]

[1]- Kyrou, op. ext., p. 43
[2]- GFM, A/1272/11-6-1941.
[3]- GFM, A/4425/1/0/1941.
[4]- Elizabeth Barker, Macedonia; Its Place in Balkan Power Politics (London : Royal Institute of International Affairs, 1950), p. 78.
[5]- For the text of the Decree see Bulgarian Atrocities in Macedonia and Thrace, 1941-1944: A Report of Professors of the Universities of Athens and Sa-lonica (Athens, 1945), p. 30, [hereafter referred to as Bulgarian Atrocities]. The nationality clauses of the Decree were not enforced on account of stern protests to the Reich authorities in Greece by the Nazi-imposed Athens government who succeeded in gaining successive postponements till the liberation of the country in October 1944.
[6]- On September 3, 1942, the Sofia newspaper Zora commented: "Now that the Greeks have been expelled for good from these Bulgarian regions, our Thracian brethren return in masses to their ancient homes. By means of the repopulation of these regions by Bulgarians, which is effected on a large scale, and by the "Bul¬garization" of Western Thrace, these territories of Southern Bulgaria are colonized for a fourth time by those who have lived there for centuries." Text in: Greek, Under-Secretariat for Press and Information, The Conspiracy Against Greece (Athens: "Pyrsos", June 1947), pp. 30-31 [hereaftre referred to as Conspiracy].
[7]- Bulgarian Atrocities, op. cit., p. 24.
[8]- For text of the Bulgarian Premier's interview see Bulgarian Atrocities, op. cit., p. 31.
[9]- Naltsas, op. cit., p. 211.
[10]- Ibid.
[11]- Constantine A. Doxiades, Destruction of Towns and Villages in Greece, Series No. 11, (Athens: Ministry of Reconstruction, 1947), p. 14.
[12]- Report dated July 30, 1942, in GFM Ε/474/1/1/1942.
[13]- Report dated July 30, 1942, in GFM Ε/474/1/1/1942.

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