Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Nationalism and Communism in Macedonia

Papercover: 252 pages
Publisher: Institute For Balkan Studies, Thessaloniki, 1964
Author: Evangelos Kofos
Status: Rare and Out of print book

Kofos is one the few scholars with a deep knowledge of the Macedonian Question. In a question overloaded by conflicting propagandas this book is a valuable companion to separate the facts from the myths.

This work is a history of Macedonia from the early nineteenth century to 1962. As the title suggests, it concerns the internal and external struggles of the Balkan states and their respective Communist parties for control of the region. His purpose, Kofos tells us, is to correct the "distortions and inaccuracies" of most secondary works by utilizing new sources, especially Greek government archives.

The book's strong points are two: the arguments that western Macedonia was indeed predominantly Greek" and that the Balkan Communist parties have been more nationalistic than Marxist in their Macedonian policies. Actually, neither contention is startlingly original, particularly the latter. Elizabeth Barker's Macedonia (1950) proved this conclusively, and Kofos relies heavily on her work. He has, however, added detailed information, much of which has hitherto been unavailable in English, for example, details of the struggles within the Greek and Yugoslav Communist parties over the Comintern's policy for an autonomous Macedonia.

Another contribution of this book is the introduction of a great body of Greek monographic studies of the last ten or fifteen years dealing with various aspects of Greco-Slavic relations. The existence of such studies is almost completely unknown in the West. In connection with sources, this reviewer feels that a critical bibliograph- ical essay discussing the Greek, Bulgarian, and Yugoslav, as well as the Macedonian sources on the subject would both enhance the value of the study and illuminate some of the problems which a student of Greco-Slavic relations faces. As Kofos admits in his introduction, "Macedonia has suffered from far too extensive a bibliography, one tending to obscure rather than clarify the real issues."

There will be those who will disagree with some of his opinions and certain appellations describing ethnic groups in Macedonia, such as Slavophobes, Greco- mans, Exarchists, etc., but this is unavoidable in treating a topic of this nature. Others will disagree with his concluding remark that as a result of the relative decline of the dispute during the last few years, "the Macedonian question can and should be considered a subject for the student of history rather than an issue for the policymaker." To assume such a possibility is to assume that the age-old conflicts on which this study is based can be removed over night. Such a cherished accomplishment will demand both political maturity and considerable sacrifice of national interests and pride. One wonders if that can be said of any of the Balkan states as yet. In an age when nationalism has proven a most disruptive force, Macedonia may still prove a bone of contention affecting the relations of the Balkan states concerned.



For almost a century, the Macedonian Question has occupied a unique position in Balkan politics, unique because it is the most con­troversial issue keeping the Balkan peoples apart.

In Macedonia, as in most highly disputed lands, one hardly feels confident when trying to untangle the strings of confusion. In the endless game of politics, propaganda has been elevated to the rank of scholarship; hopes and national aspirations have assumed the form of rightful demands. A serious student of the problem, or a conscientious diplomat in the field, experiences uncertainty as to what constitutes a fact and what a myth in the Macedonian paradox.

Macedonia has suffered from far too extensive a bibliography, one tending to obscure rather than clarify the real issues. Few have been the true scholarly works. Most of the books, brochures, pamphlets and articles have been written in the heat of passion, prompted by the urge to defend or to project one side over the other. The geographic boundaries of the region, for instance, have been exposed to numerous interpretations and have caused many a scholar and propagandist to devote time and energy arguing on end over seemingly insignificant points. History, always a convenient means for converting past glories into contemporary political claims, has been twisted and recast a hundred times in order to justify individual national views. Worse yet, the analysis of the ethnological structure of Macedonia has been subjected to a savage treatment at the hands of the respective national propagandas, since it was felt, that whoever appeared to command the loyalties of the majority, enjoyed a greater chance of seeing his views enforced.

Today, however, marks a period of relative calm. The revolution­aries—known either as chauvinist comitadjis or communist guerrillas—have been withdrawn from the scene. Though propaganda war is still on, it is now strong and aggressive, now gentle and couched in diplomatic under­tones. In such a tranquil respite this study was undertaken hoping to shed a little more light on a complex issue; weigh a little more soberly the events which shook this part of the world in recent years, and draw — if possible—the proper conclusions in order to better comprehend the elements and motivations which tend to bring the Macedonian issue con­stantly to the foreground.

* * *

The Macedonian Question has been a combination of age-old national antagonisms, messianic ambitions, Great Power politics, racial suspicions, economic considerations and, more recently, conflicting socio-political ideologies.

Initially, it commenced as a typical example of a national awakening of neighboring peoples, only it soon manifested itself in an unbridled urge for territorial expansion, sometimes justified, more often not. At the same time, the geopolitical value of the region attracted the attention of the Great Powers who tended to complicate the issue and accentuate local antagonisms by espousing now one, now the other of the Balkan peoples.

The peace treaties which ended the Balkan wars and the First World War, settled the issue juridically. The population transfers of the first two decades of the 20th century, reduced, to some extend, the importance of the ethnological aspect of the problem. Yet, other considerations con­tinued to keep it alive. Among them were economic interests, as expressed in Bulgarian efforts for a territorial outlet in the Aegean Sea; group pres­sures, like the case of the Bulgarian Macedonian refugees in Bulgaria agitating for return to their native villages in Greek and Yugoslav Macedonia; and ir­responsible actions by the various dictators who had come to power in the Balkan states during the inter-war period and who tended to act impulsively on whatever concerned Macedonia. Finally, the emergence of communism in the Balkans was instrumental in reviving and accentuating the old con­troversy.

* * *

Before anyone proceeds with a study of this problem, it is important that certain bacic facts are well taken into consideration.Macedonia is neither a geographical nor a national entity. For the past fifty years it has remained, above all, a political problem which from time to time, emerges with varied degrees of acuteness. A land of high moun­tains and fertile plains, traversed by wide but unnavigable rivers which follow a general southerly direction, it occupies the most important eco­nomic and strategic location in Southeastern Europe. Its natural and con-fortable harbors of Thessaloniki and Kavala, on the Aegean, can stimu­late the trade of the entire peninsula; they can also provide excellent ac­cess to the interior of the Balkans for military operations and, indeed, theyhave. Its plains which cut the monotony of southern Balkan mountain ranges constitute the granary not only for Macedonia but for the surround­ing regions as well; yet, these same plains have been over the ages the main gateways for invaders coming to pillage and conquer. Valuable com­mercial routes traverse Macedonia linking Greece with Central Europe and the Orient with the West; but, again, these same routes have been an end­less temptation to old and new imperialist-minded powers. In the present international situation, Macedonia constitutes the most tempting — and vul­nerable— region in the North Atlantic defense complex. In the event of a major confrontation between the two blocs it bars a descent of the Soviets toward the Mediterranean, at the same time remaining a valuable forward base for the Western Alliance. Thus, since Macedonia excels in paradoxes, it is no surprise that whatever appears to be a God-sent gift, is frequent­ly an unwarranted anathema.

Today the commonly accepted boundaries of Macedonia follow the administrative divisions of the respective Macedonian provinces in Greece, Yugoslavia and, to some extent, in Bulgaria. In the north, they follow the direction of the Shar Mountains and the hills north of Skopje; in the east they move along the Rila and Rhodope Mountain ranges and, inside Greece, along the Nestos River. The southern limits begin at the mouth of the Nestos, and follow the coastline to the slopes of Mount Olympus and thence, to the edge of the Pindus range. There, they take a sharp northerly direction, forming the western boundary with the lakes of Pres-pa and Ohrid as focal points.The periphery of Macedonia crosses four national boundaries enter­ing only briefly into Albania in the region of the lakes. Greek Macedonia occupies 51.56 per cent of the area, or 34,602,5 square kilometers; Yugo­slav Macedonia 38.32 per cent or 25,713 square kilometers and Bulga­rian Macedonia 10.12 per cent or 6,789,2 square kilometers. [1]

It is fruitless to trace the boundaries of Macedonia throughout the ages. Yugoslavs and Bulgarians generally agree on the delimitation as pre­sented above, although at times, for political reasons, they tend to exclude certain districts of southern Greek Macedonia. The Greeks, on the other hand, do not accept the northern demarcation, contending that it was drawn arbitrarily on the basis of Ottoman administrative divisions rather, than on historical tradition. Instead, they limit the geographical region of Macedonia to the confines of the old Macedonian state of classical times. According to their view, present-day Greek Macedonia, and only certain narrow belts north of the border in Yugoslavia and Bulgaria, can be rightly referred to by the name "Macedonia." Consequently, when the Yugo­slavs talk of a "Macedonian" state in their country —for that matter, a "Macedonian" state of Slavs — the Greeks feel that their neighbors are ma­nipulating arbitrarily a name and a state which rightfully belongs to their own classical heritage.
Today, Greek Macedonia is divided into three geographical regions, i.e. Eastern Macedonia, comprising the towns of Serres, Drama and the port of Kavala, Central Macedonia with Thessaloniki, and Western Ma­cedonia whose major towns are Kastoria, Fiorina, Kozani and Edessa. Administratively, it is divided into twelve nomoi or prefectures, each with a prefect appointed by the Government. Thessaloniki is the capital of Ma­cedonia and the seat of the Minister of Northern Greece who has the rank of a full cabinet minister and whose jurisdiction extends over Thrace as well as Macedonia.Since 1944, Yugoslav Macedonia has been known as the People's Republic of Macedonia, [2] one of the six federative republics of the People's Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Skopje, a city of approximately 170,000 [3] inhabitants, is the capital of the region and the seat of the local govern­ment and assembly. Administratively it is composed of seven departments,!.e. Bitola (Monastir), Kumanovo, Ohrid, Skopje, Stip, Tetovo and TitovVeles.

At present, the regions which comprise what was traditionally known as Bulgarian "Pirin" Macedonia, are the Prefecture of Blagoevgrad and the district of Kiunstendil in the new (1959) Prefecture of Stanke Dimitrov. The Prefecture of Blagoevgrad comprises six administrative districts: Blagoevgrad, Goce Delcev, Petric\ Razlog and Sandaski. In addition there are the town-districts of Bansko and Melnik.The Macedonian provinces in Greece and Bulgaria are fully integrated in the respective countries with no separate status. Only Yugoslav Mace­donia, for reasons which will be analyzed in due course, has a type of autonomy as a federated component of Yugoslavia. There is no communion between the three parts of Macedonia. In fact, there is more dividing them than uniting them, the only exception being the relationship between Bulgarian and Yugoslav Macedonia whose common historical past and racial kinship tend to bring them together. Yet, even in their case, poli­tical considerations influence their orientation more effectively than his­torical ties.

Today, Greek and Bulgarian Macedonia are ethnically homogeneous regions. In Greek Macedonia, according to the latest official figures, there are 1,700,835 inhabitants of whom 41,017 are classified as Slav-speaking. In Bulgarian Macedonia (Prefecture of Blagoevgrad only), according to the 1956 census there were 281,015 inhabitants of whom 187,789 were classified as ethnic "Macedonians." At present, although the results of the 1961-1962 census have not been published, all inhabitants are con­sidered as ethnic Bulgarians. Yugoslav Macedonia is a different case. Since 1944, a "Macedonian" nationality has been recognized by the com­munist regime, and all the inhabitants of the region —known until that time as Serbs or Bulgarians—are termed "Macedonians." According to 1961 official estimates, the population of Yugoslav Macedonia is 1,404,000. [4]

It is not for this introductory section to try to examine in detail the merits of the argument over the question of the existence of a "Macedo­nian" nationality. It is only hoped that in subsequent pages this point —as well as a score of others —will emerge a little more clearly.

* * *

The present book is divided into two parts. Part One, which is based on secondary sources, has been included mostly as an introduction for the uninitiated reader and as a basis for allowing for intelligent com­parisons. Briefly, it reviews the "old" Macedonian Question, as it devel­oped from the time of its 19th century awakening of nationalities to the Second World War when Bulgaria, allied to Nazi Germany, appeared to have come close to realizing her century-old aspirations of occupying the entire region. Part Two, which is far more extensive and brings to light previously unpublished data, deals with the role of communism in the shaping of the "new" Macedonian Question. It begins with a return to the first decades of this century, when the Bolsheviks began to consider the potentialities of the Macedonian issue for the advancement of their own objectives in the Balkans; it ends at the time of this writing when tensions are considerably low on all sides.

[1]-Figures for the Greek and Bulgarian Macedonian regions are taken from Christopher S. Christides, The Macedonian Camouflage in the Light of Facts and Figures (Athens: The Hellenic Publishing Company, 1949), p. 53, and for Yugoslav Macedonia from Petit Manuel de la Yougoslavie, 1962 (Belgrade: Federal Institute of Statistics, 1962), p. 20.
[2]-In April 1963, Yugoslavia and her republics replaced the "People's Repu­blic" by the "Socialist Republic." Since the present book deals with events prior to this change, the old name will be retained.
[3]-Petit Manuel de la Yougoslavie, 1962, op. cit., p. 121.
[4]-4. Ibid., p. 20. The 1953 official statistics gave a more detail breakdown for the population of the " P.R. of Macedonia: "

Turks ..............................204,000
Skipitars (Albanians) ....163,000
Serbs ..................................35,000
Gypsies ..............................20,000
Vlachs ..................................9,000
Croats ..................................3,000
Montenegrins .....................3,000
Yugoslavs (various) ...........2,000
Greeks .................................1,000
Bulgarians ...........................1,000
Slovenians ...........................1,000
Russians ..............................1,000
Undesignated .....................1,000
Total .............................1,305,000
Source : Federal Statistical Institute : Statistical Year-book of Yugoslavia, 1959 (Belgrade, April 1959), p. 23.

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