Saturday, June 19, 2010

The role of the Communist International in the hatching of the “Macedonian nation”.

By Spyridon Sfetas
Abstract from the article The Birth of ‘Macedonianism’ in the Interwar Period” and the book “The History of Macedonia, Museum of the Macedonian Struggle, 2010”.

In historiography the view that the 'Macedonian nation' was a creation of Tito is widespread. This position can of course not be denied, since the Communist Party of Yugoslavia (KPJ) had particular reasons for promoting 'Macedonianism' in Yugoslav Macedonia as a counterweight ideology to Bulgarian-Serbian competition in the interwar period. The need to detach the Slavs of Macedonia from Greek, Serbian and Bulgarian influence with the creation of a collective Slav-Macedonian identity had already been underscored in the early 20th century by a number of Slav intellectuals, such as Krste Misirkov, Stefan Dedov, Diamandi Misajkov and Dimitrija Cupovski. Foreseeing that the antagonism between Serbs and Bulgarians was continuing at the expense of the local population and that it only perpetuated Turkish rule, they sought to have the Slavs of Macedonia acknowledged as a separate community (millet). Even so, the political conditions of the early 20th century did not favour the advocacy of Slav-Macedonianism as a new collective ethnic identity, and its early proponents had very little impact on the masses. The political and ideological origins of 'Macedonianism' were essentially posed by the Third Communist International (the Comintern) in the interwar period. It is documented that the Communist International saw the Macedonian question as a tactical issue, relating to the political conditions of the time.[1] The publication of important documents for the period 1923-1925 from the Comintern archive has essentially confirmed the view that there were specific reasons as to why the Communist International was promoting a United and Independent Macedonia within a Balkan Soviet Republic. These were to assist IMRO in its attempt to create a unified front between the Bulgarian Communists, the Bulgarian Farmers and Bulgarian-Macedonian organizations for the advance of the revolution in Bulgaria, the establishment of a government of workers and farmers and the destabilization of the Balkan states.[2] According to the Communist International, the Macedonian organisations in Bulgaria should not only disassociate themselves from the influence of Bulgarian 'bourgeois' political elements, but also estrange themselves from Bulgarian nationalism. Criticising the Bulgarian Communist Party (BCP) for the neutral stand it took during the coup against the agrarian government of Aleksandr Stambolijski, Karl Radek expressed himself in the following way at the plenum of the Executive Committee of the Communist International (12-13 June 1923) in Moscow:

'The Macedonian Question has played an important role throughout the whole of Bulgaria's modern history. Macedonia, in which there reside peasants of whom it is difficult to say if they are Serbs or Bulgarian, is an old object of discord between Bulgaria and Serbia. After Bulgaria's defeat in the war, the Agrarian party of Stambolijski gave up [contesting] Macedonia. It gave up not only formally, and in Nis it signed a treaty with Yugoslavia on the basis of which Stambolijski would persecute the old Macedonian organisations. From a social perspective, these are organisations of small and poor peasants. They have a revolutionary past, they have struggled against the rule of the Turkish landowners, against the Serbian bourgeoisie, they have illegal revolutionary organisations. There has been sympathy for the Russian Revolution for a while now. The Macedonian organizations were a social factor with which we could have connected... The Party has done nothing and its neglect of the Macedonian Question is typical. [3]

Instead of the term 'Bulgarian people', as this was used in previous declarations of the Third International, the terms 'Macedonian people' and 'Macedonian population without national distinctions' were introduced in 1923-24. The aim of the Communist International was that all nationalities in Macedonian would develop an indigenous Macedonian consciousness as one 'people' from a political perspective, and aspire to a United and Independent Macedonia so as to undermine the 'bourgeois' Balkan states.

The new line imposed at the 6th Conference of the Balkan Communist Federation (Moscow, December 1923) and the fifth Congress of the Communist International (17/6 - 8/7/1924) was for a 'United and Independent Macedonia within a Balkan Federation', which would be achievable 'only if the struggle of the Macedonian people is aligned with the struggle of the workers and peasants of the Balkans'. It is obvious that such a policy aimed at the undermining of the Balkan states, including Bulgaria. In a letter to IMRO in July 1924, the Communist International set as a precondition for its assistance the obligation of the organization to begin the revolution in Bulgaria, with the aim of expelling the Bulgarian state organs from the Bulgarian section of Macedonia, and its proclamation as an independent state.[4] The pressure exercised by the Communist International on the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) in 1924 to accept the decision of the fifth Congress of the Communist International on the Macedonian Question can be explained by its policy toward IMRO. The wing of the KKE that accepted the new line justified its position with the argument that, to the degree that support for a 'United and Independent Macedonia' contributed to the successful outcome of the revolution in Bulgaria and the Balkans, then the KKE, as an internationalist party, was obliged to accept it, even coming into conflict with the Greek bourgeoisie.[5]

The term 'Macedonian nation', identified exclusively and emphatically with the Slav element of Macedonia, had not yet appeared in the texts of the Communist International, but the Macedonian Question was no longer considered simply a Bulgarian issue. The plan of the Communist International failed, but Soviet involvement in the Macedonian Question resulted in the political and ideological polarisation of the Bulgarian-Macedonian initiative. As an ideological and political counterweight to the IMRO of Ivan Mihajlov, an IMRO (United) was founded in Vienna in October 1925, under the mantle of the Communist International. On the Central Committee of IMRO (United) there was a communist wing and a national-revolutionary wing, which, although it disagreed with the communist orientation of the organization, was counting on the assistance of the Soviet Union for a review of the peace treaty. In 1928, with the decisions of the sixth Congress of the Communist International, the national-revolutionary wing of the Central Committee of IMRO (United) was eliminated, and the organization now acquired a narrowly communist character, with Dimitar Vlahov and Vladimir Pop-tomov, members of the Bulgarian Communist Party, in a leading role. The influence of the IMRO (United) in the Balkans was insignificant, given that it was first based in Vienna and later in Berlin and that its newspaper, the Makedonsko Delo (Macedonian Question) published in Bulgarian, was not easily accessible in the Balkans. Until 1928, small groups of the IMRO (United) had been formed only in the Serbian section of Macedonia. They were of little political significance and were expunged completely by the Serbian authorities in 1929. The first nucleuses of the organisation were formed in Bulgaria in 1928. Yet, due to its narrow communist character and the enmity of Mihajlov's IMRO, IMRO (United) could not evolve into a significant political factor in Bulgaria, and was limited to a propaganda role amongst the Bulgarian-Macedonian refugees. The basic political line of the organization was a 'United and Independent Macedonia' within a Balkan Federation, and by Macedonian people they meant all the ethnicities of Macedonia (Bulgarians, Albanians, Turks, Jews, Vlachs, Greeks, Gypsies). In a memorandum (10/9/1927) on the condition of the oppressed peoples of the Balkans to the president of the Council for National Minorities in Geneva, they noted characteristically:

'In Serbian Macedonia all Belgrade governments, regardless of their differences in domestic and foreign policy, apply the same policy as regards the Macedonians. The Macedonian people, that is all the nationalities that live there and in whose name we speak - Bulgarians, Albanians, Turks, Jews, Greeks, Gypsies - are denied political and civil rights. All Serbian authori¬ties have treated them and continue to treat them as though they are Serbs... If we were to examine how the Macedonian people lives from Greek work, we would see that here the situation is the same. The Greek authorities expelled the Turks from Macedonia, after having first plundered them. They impose many impediments on the Jews, so as to force them to move else¬where. They expel the Bulgarians as well... There is no difference between the Greek and the Serb governments as regards the nationalities in Macedonia. Greece treats these nationalities as though they were slaves. If we examine the Bulgarian section of Macedonia, we would see that the situa¬tion here is similar to that in the Serbian and Greek sections. The Greek and Turk Macedonians who lived here before were expelled. The population that lives in this section of Macedonia, indeed of Bulgarian nationality, enjoys cultural rights. It has schools, churches, etc. And this is the only difference between the condition of the Macedonians in Bulgaria and those in Greece and Serbia... From every other perspective, the condition of the Macedonians in this section of Macedonia does not differ from that of those under Greek and Serbian rule, and in some cases is even worse. The political regime in the Macedonia under Bulgarian rule is one of the most tyrannical in the world. As for the economic situation to which the Bulgarian Macedo¬nians have been abandoned to live in, this is especially tragic.[6]

Which factors were influential in the abandonment of this position and the adoption of the view that there existed a 'Macedonian nation', exclusively identified with the Slavic group? The access to the Comintern Archive that we enjoy today allows us to follow this process much more completely.

The old view is generally confirmed, that with Hitler's rise to power the Comintern wished to avoid exploitation of the Macedonian Question by Nazi Germany in favour of Bulgaria in the upcoming war, as had happened during the First World War. In 1933 Mihajlov's IMRO had accepted the IMRO (United) position for a Unified and Independent Macedonia, as a second Bulgarian state, considering the national identity of Bulgarian compatible with the political name of Macedonian. The need for a not only ideological and political campaign, but also a national one against Mihajlov's IMRO, was thus now clear. The efforts of the Comintern to prevent the exploitation of Yugoslavia’s ethnic problems, especially the Croatian, by Nazi Germany had a significant effect. The issue of the foundation of a national Croat and Slovenian Party was thus quickly posed, so that the now nationally-based Communist Parties would henceforth deal with the country's ethnic problems. Given the new conditions, Yugoslavia should act as a bulwark to Nazi Germany's efforts to penetrate the Balkans.

As soon as Vladimir Poptomov, a member of the Central Committee of the IMRO (United), was informed that the situation of the organisation and the prospect of 'revolu¬tionary action' were to be discussed within the Comintern, he submitted a memorandum on 15/11/1933 to the Secretariat of the Balkan States (Balkanlander Sekretariat, hence¬forth BLS), the Comintern organ responsible for the Balkans. He attributed the causes for the failure of IMRO (United) to develop into a mass organisation to its centralised character, the problems in distributing the newspaper Makedonsko Delo, and the diffi¬culties in reading and understanding the newspaper in Greece and Yugoslavia, since it was published in the scholarly Bulgarian language.[7] Poptomov placed particular importance on the different socio-political conditions that prevailed in the three sections of the wider area of Macedonia, the continuous Serbisation and Hellenisation of the Slavic population, with the result that the younger generations could only easily read and speak the Greek or Serbian languages. As such, according to Poptomov, the newspaper Makedonsko Delo could only be understood by the Bulgarian-Macedonian refugees in Bulgaria. He proposed the decentralisation of the organisation, that a national-revolutionary organisation be founded in every section of Macedonia under the guidance of the Communist Parties and with the slogan 'self-determination of the Macedonian people until the secession of a sovereign and unified Macedonia’.[8] Perhaps the main point of Poptomov's essay was the danger of Serbisation and Hellenisation succeeding.

At the meeting of the Office of the BLS on 20 December 1933, the proposal of Rilski - pseudonym of Georgi Karadzov, a member of the Bulgarian IMRO (United) -for the IMRO (United) was examined;[9] his position on the right of the 'Macedonian people' to secede, for a Unified and Independent Macedonia, for a Balkan federation of workers, was ratified.[10] The question of the ethnicity of the Macedonians was also posed, and 'a special examination of the question was deemed necessary, if possible with the participation of the comrades who have arrived from Macedonia.'[11] Vlahov was also in attendance at the meeting of 22 December 1933. The issue of the drafting of a decision for IMRO (United) was posed, with the ethnicity of the Macedonians at its core. This task was assigned to Vlahov, Rilski and German, pseudonym of the Bulgarian communist Pavle Gicev, who were given three days in which to present the draft decision.[12]The basic points of the decision were as follows:

'The national question of Macedonia is particularly closely tied to the question of the war and the question of international social revolution. The rare peculiarity of historical evolution created here, from an ethnic perspective, a situation of which there is no comparison anywhere else in Europe... After the Balkan and the imperialist wars, Macedonia was divided between Serbia, Greece and Bulgaria. There followed an artificial movement of populations from whole regions, settlements, violent denationalization and assimilation... The Macedonian people see the danger in which they will be as long as capitalism and imperialism exist, as long as the large imperialist centers continue to exploit the small Balkan states... The country's population, which has passed through so many wars, has realized that the new imperial war could lead to its complete physical annihilation, if war is not prevented by a prior uprising and the victory of the social revolution in Europe. This situation has rallied all the working population of this section of the Balkan peninsula into one totality, and has created a peculiar situation here, that the population that speaks Slavic and the population that speaks the languages of the minorities feel the same national oppression, economic exploitation and pillaging. They have common interests at the present moment and feel the necessity for a common defence, for when the future historical events arrive.

The working masses of Macedonia do not characterize themselves and they do not want to be either Bulgarians or Serbs, they consider the governments of the Greeks and the Turks as foreign powers. They characterize themselves as the predominant Macedonian whole... This is where the idea of national Macedonian rule is found, the right of the full national self-determination of the Macedonians, the idea of a unified and independent Macedonian workers democracy, in a common struggle against imperialism and for social revolution.'[13]

The main section of the draft plan referred to the upcoming war, using the terms 'Macedonian people' and 'working masses of Macedonia', indicating all the nationalities of Macedonia, Slav and non-Slav, as a unified total coming under the term 'people'. This specificity legitimated the right to a unified and independent Macedonian state 'of the working masses'. In essence, this draft plan did not differ from previous IMRO (United) declarations, with the simple difference that, for tactical purposes, mention was no longer made of Soviet democracies or Balkan federations. The draft plan was not deemed satisfactory and, at the meeting of the BLS on 28 December 1933, which Vlahov did not attend, German (pseudonym of Gicev) was given until 31 December 1933 to submit the text of a final decision to the Office of the BLS.=[14]

Yet, the text submitted to the BLS on 31 December 1933 was similar to the previous draft plan:

'After the Balkan and imperial wars - the result of which was that the unified from a geographical and economic perspective area of Macedonia was divided into three parts between Serbia, Greece and Bulgaria - the economic and political condition of the Macedonian population has worsened even further... As a result of this policy, the old ethnographic physiognomy of some sections of Macedonia almost changed radically - in the Greek section of Macedonia - and to the degree that the local populations that remained there are prohibited, with the threat of capital punishment, of speaking their mother tongue (in the Macedonia under Serbian or Greek rule)... The overwhelming majority of the working population of Macedonia, which lives in Macedonia or as a refugee elsewhere, despite the differences existing in religion and language and the discord that has been artificially created over the centuries, constitutes a whole, with common economic and political interests at the present moment and feels the need for a common defence, for when the great future historic events arrive. Having as a basis the realization of the need to preserve the common economic and political unity of Macedonia in the interest of its physical existence, [the population] demands the right to national self-determination and even the secession of an independent Macedonian state. The Macedonian masses do not want to belong neither to Bulgaria nor to Serbia nor to Greece, despite the fact that, from the point of view of language and religion, different sections of the Macedonian population are more closely related to the population of one or another Balkan state. Bearing all this in mind, the Balkan proletariat must support the national liberation struggle of the Macedonian people for national liberation and unity in every way, teaching it always consistently and surely that only the total defeat of imperialism will free the Macedonian people from the danger of total physical annihilation, a threat which it always finds it itself under given its geographical position. '[15]

The Balkan Communists had not grasped the essence of the problem. This was, of course, the matter of the identity of the Slavs of Macedonia, whom revisionist Bulgaria considered as unredeemed Bulgarians, something that would lead to Bulgaria joining the German camp in the upcoming war. The questioning of the Bulgarian identity of the Slavs of Macedonia would deny Bulgaria the right to make claims. Already during the Balkan Conferences (1930 - 1933) Bulgaria had insisted on the signing of bilateral treaties for the protection of minorities. This should characterise the spirit of the decision. During the meeting of the BLS on 3 January 1934, then, German's text was rejected and the intervention of leading Comintern cadres was necessary. The participation of Vasil Kolarov in amending the draft decision is acknowledged.[16] The new text was presented at the meeting of the BLS on 7 January 1934, and was ratified by the Political Office of the Executive Committee of the Communist international at a closed meeting on 11 January 1934. According to the brief proceedings of the meeting, a discussion was held in which Vlahov, Kolarov, German and others participated. Unfortunately, the views that they presented have not been recorded. The Political Office accepted the text of the proposal as a basis, and commissioned the BLS 'to compose a final text on the basis of the views exchanged and in agreement with comrade Kuusinen. The slogan 'Workers Democracy' should remain in the decision'. [17] The intervention of the higher cadres of the Comintern - including otto Kuusinen, Secretary of the Executive Committee of the Communist International and member of the Finnish Communist Party - was, therefore, decisive for the final formulation of the decision on the Macedonian Question and the IMRO (United). The decision differed significantly from the draft decision of 31 December 1933.

'In conditions of increased international and class conflicts, the direct danger of new wars and the maturing of the revolutionary crisis, the Macedonian national-revolutionary movement, the head of which is the IMRO (United), plays the role of an important element and ally of the working class, the peasantry and all the oppressed nationalities in the struggle to overturn the domination of the bourgeois class and the landowners in the three states that enslaved Macedonia.

'The division of Macedonia, which was the foundation of the alliance between Bulgaria, Serbia and Greece in the war against Turkey and which immediately emerged as an issue that led to a new war between Serbia, Greece and others against Bulgaria, constitutes in the post-war period a permanent cause for the rise in conflict and the struggle between the three states for rule over the whole of Macedonia and access to the Aegean. On the other hand, the great imperialist states turned Macedonia into a bridgehead for political activities during the imperialist World War, and are now exploiting the Macedonian Question to strengthen their positions in the Balkans. Macedonia is thus one of the centres of the upcoming imperialist war.

'The states that exist in Macedonia apply a pillaging economic policy that sucks the workers, waging terror and national oppression... The dominant nations of the three imperialist states that divided Macedonia justify national oppression by denying the national specificities of the Macedonian people, by denying the existence of a Macedonian nation. Greek chauvinism declares that the indigenous Slav population in the part of Macedonia that she rules over is constituted of Greeks who had been Slavised in the past centuries, who through violence must "return" to Greek culture, prohibiting them from speaking or learning their mother tongue. The great Serb chauvinists, invoking the existence of Serbian loanwords in the language of the local Macedonian population, declare that this population is one of the "tribes» of the unified Yugoslav nation and they Serbise it through violence. Finally, Bulgarian nationalism, exploiting the relationship of the Macedo¬nian language with the Bulgarian, declares them to be Bulgarians and thus justifies the occupation of the region of Petritsi and its pillaging policy toward the whole of Macedonia. By waging a struggle against the division and enslavement of the Macedonian people, against every kind of national, cultural, social and economic oppression, IMRO (United) must uncover the true meaning of all the sophisms that deny the Macedonians the character of a nation, and not allow them to spread throughout its environment... IMRO (United) must organize and wage a daily struggle against all types of national oppression, against every extraordinary law, for the right to the use of the mother tongue in all state and public institutions, for the freedom to have schools, publications, etc. in the mother tongue... In this struggle, the central slogan of IMRO (United) must be the slogan for the right of the nation to self-determination as far as secession and the achievement of a unified, Macedonian workers democracy.[18]

The differentiation between the meanings 'Macedonian people' (i.e. all the ethnicities of Macedonia and with the political meaning of the term 'people') and 'Macedonian nation' as a national community with reference only to the Slavs is clear. Since the efforts of the Comintern to exploit the Macedonian Question to promote revolution had so far not brought the desired results, the appeal to the national idea was deemed more effective. Was, however, the decision a reflection of real conditions, or had the division of Macedonia created a feeling of unity amongst the Slavs, with a need to detach themselves from the Bulgarian, Greek and Serbian national ideas? As mentioned, the developments in the three sections were different. The Slav population used the term (Slav-) Macedonians as a geographical term, but also as a anodyne term that could neutralize the perhaps dangerous public self-characterization of 'Bulgarian' in Yugoslavia and Greece, and which could express a localism with the meaning of 'autochthon' in contrast to the migrants, the Serb settlers or the Greek refugees. In terms of consciousness, the sense of difference from the Greek or Serb idea was expressed more in pro-Bulgarian terms,[19] to the extent that we cannot talk about individuals with a fluid identity.

In the historiography of Skopje it is argued that the decision of the Communist International signified the first recognition of the 'Macedonian nation' as an objective reality in international arenas, something of great importance for subsequent developments. But, as arises from the proceedings of the meetings, the differing contents of the texts of the draft decision and the final decision indicate that the 'Macedonian nation' was not immediately considered a given reality. The Communist International did not mention the prime movers of Slav-Macedonian separatism, nor did it clarify the particu¬lar national characteristics of the 'Macedonians', which distinguished them from the Serbs, Greeks or Bulgarians. It is characteristic that in the draft and the decision for IMRO (United) even the Balkan Communists were unable to conceive the meaning of 'nationality of the Macedonians' as a specific 'Slav-Macedonian nation'. There is no doubt that this was a political decision of the Comintern that was imposed on the Balkan Communist parties. This decision questioned the right of the Bulgarians and of Mihajlov's IMRO to contest the liberation of the 'Macedonians' as unredeemed Bulgarians. At the same time, it eliminated the differences between the Bulgarian and Yugoslav Communists over the ethnic identity of the 'Macedonians'. The Balkan Communist parties were now called upon to transform the geographical term 'Macedonians' into an ethnic term, with exclusive reference to Slavs. Within the new global conditions, after the rise of Nazism, a strong Yugoslavia had to constitute a barrier to Hitler's expansion in the Balkans. Recognition of the national specificity of the 'Macedonians' and the questioning of Bulgarian and Serbian contestations meant that the Macedonian Question could be resolved within the context of a new, federal Yugoslavia. It was not a coincidence then that, at the meeting of the BLS on 5 January 1934, it was decided, alongside the decision on the existence of a 'Macedonian nation', to establish a Croatian and a Slovenian Communist Party within the Communist Party of Yugoslavia.[20]

Yet, there is still the anthropological aspect ndependent of the political goals of the Communist International, what impact could the call for the existence of a 'Macedonian nation' have on the simple peasants of the wider Macedonian region? Was it ultimately an incumbent, alienated identity? As already mentioned, the term 'Macedonian' was used by the Slavs as a geographical, localized term, and the villagers called the Slavic idiom 'Macedonian'. From this perspective, there was no name issue. The geographical term 'Macedonian' could take on a national dimension in the consciousness of the villages, if there was a political dynamic to promote this transformation, and if the political conditions required it, as indeed was the case during the Second World War. The fact should not be ignored that the Slav population in Serbian Macedonia was the victim of Serb-Bulgarian antagonism and of Greek-Bulgarian antagonism in Greek Macedonia. On the one hand, it was forced by IMRO to shelter the comitadjis, to declare itself Bulgarian and to maintain a Bulgarian position. Yet, on the other, it was persecuted by the Serbian military organizations, when it harboured IMRO, and was undergoing political Serbisation. It was natural that it would be experiencing a crisis of national identity.

For the Greeks, there was the saga of the Politis-Kalfov Protocol, the subsequent insistence of Bulgaria that the Greek governments recognise a Bulgarian minority, and the general revisionist policy of Sofia made urgent the need for the Hellenisation of other language speakers in Greek Macedonia. Regardless of the long-term potential successes of Serbisation and Hellenisation, the alternative solution of the 'Macedonian nation' operated as a balance to traditional Serb-Bulgarian and Greek-Bulgarian antagonism and provided the population with a sense of security. Political elements could easily concoct a national ideology to service the needs of this 'ethnogenesis', with unclear dividing lines between myth and historical fact, so as to lend the Slavs of Macedonia a 'glorious' past.

The subsequent policy of the Comintern on the Macedonian issue was determined by the need to constitute a unified anti-fascist front along the spirit of the decisions of the Seventh and final Congress of the Communist International (25/7-20/8/1935). Immediately after the Congress, and in the aftermath of the assassination of the king of Yugoslavia Aleksander Karadjordjevic, in October 1934 orders were given to the Balkan Communist Parties to gain the support of the 'Macedonian masses' for this front. The formation of a unified anti-fascist front along with the 'bourgeois regimes' made the continued existence of IMRO (United) as a separate political organization unnecessary. The slogan of an 'Independent Macedonia' was abandoned in favour of campaigning for basic national, political and economic rights and freedoms.

The Seventh Congress of the Communist International provided the Balkan Communist Parties with the opportunity to shape their tactics in a manner that was to a great extent autonomous. Their position on the existence of a 'Macedonian nation', however, was a new factor, which they were obliged to take into account in their policies.

1. For an initial approach, see Sp. Sfetas, Opseis tou Makedonikou Zitimatos ston 20o aiona [Aspects of the Macedonian Question in the 20th century], Thessaloniki 2001,
pp. 55-78.
2. See the documents collected in L.I. Zila and V.T. Popovski, Makedonskij Vopros v Dokumentov Kominterna, Tom I. Cast 1, 1923-1925 gg. [The Macedonian Question in the documents of the Communist International, Vol. A, Part A, 1923-1925], Skopje 1999.
3. See K. Radek, 'Der Umsturz in Bulgarien', Die Kommunistische Internationale, 27 (15. 8. 1923), pp. 115-116.
4. See Sp. Sfetas, Makedonien und Interbalkanische Beziehungen 1920-1924, Munich
1992, p. 320.
5. On these debates, see Sfetas, Makedonien, pp. 434-440.
6. See VMRO (Obedineta), Dokumenti i Materiali, Kniga I [IMRO (United). Docu¬ments and Materials, Vol. A], ed. Ivan Katardziev, Skopje 1991, pp. 129-137 (here pp. 131, 133-134).
7. Rossijski Centr Hranenija i Izucenija Dokumentov Novejsej Istorii (henceforth RCHIDNI, Russian Centre for the Preservation and Study of the Records of Con¬temporary History),   Fond 509 (henceforth F-Series), Opis 1, (henceforth Op Catalogue), Delo 164 (henceforth D-File), Confidential, Letter from Poptomov to the Secretariat of the Balkan States,  15/11/1933.
8. Ibid.
9. it has not been possible to locate the proposal in the Archives.
10. RCHIDNI, F.495, Op. 69, D.56. Proceedings of the meeting of 20 December 1933.
11. ibid.
12. RCHIDNI, F.495, Op. 69, D.56. Proceedings of the meeting of 22 December 1933.
13. RCHIDNI, F.509, Op.169, (no indication on folder) - Proekt rezolucii o makedon-skoj 'nacii' 1933, [Draft for the decision on the Macedonian 'nation', 1933].
14. RCHIDNI, F.459, Op.69, D.56, Proceedings of the meeting of 28 December 1933.
15. RCHIDNI, F.509, Op.169, (no indication on folder), O prave makedonskogo naroda na samoopredelenie, 31/12/1933 [On the right of the Macedonian people for self-determination, 31/12/1933].
16. See 'Dokumenti. Rezoljucijata po Makedonskijat Vapros', [Documents. The deci¬sion on the Macedonian Question], Vremena, 1 (1992), pp. 100-111.
17. RCHIDNI, F. 495, Op. 3, D. 402 'Resolutionentwurf des Balkan - LS uber die makedoniche Frage und die AMRO (Vereinigte). Wird als Grundlage angenommen. Das Balkan - LS wird beauftragt, den Entwurf auf Grund der Meinungsaustausches endgultig zu redigieren und mit dem Gen. Kuusinen zu vereinbarren. Die Losung', Republik der Werktatigen 'soll in der Resolution bleiben'. It does not appear from the Comintern Archives that the role of Vlahov in processing the decision was im¬portant, contrary to what he claims in his Memoirs. See D. Vlahov, Memoari [Recollections], Skopje 1970, p. 357.
18. See the collected documents published by the Central Archive Directorate and the State Archives, BKP, Komiternat i Makedonskijat Vapros, (1917-1946), Tom Vtori, [The Bulgarian Communist Party, the Communist International and the Macedonian Question 1917-1946, Vol. B], Sofia 1999, pp. 881-884.
19. The interview (1975) with Mihalis Keramitzis, member of the KKE before the war and leading cadre of SNOF and NOF during the Occupation and the Civil War is re¬vealing. 'Then [1939] I had no idea about such things: Macedonians, Macedonia, Macedonian Question, Committee, etc. The same went for all our Macedonian cad¬res. I felt the same thing that a Greek communist felt. To the extent that I felt something different as a Slav, I felt that I was a Bulgarian...' See E. Kofos, 'TO Makedoniko stis scheseis KKE-KKY kata ta teli tou 1944' ['The Macedonian Question in the relations between the KKE and the Yugoslav Communist Party in late 1944'], in the collective volume Makedonia kai Thraki 1941-1944. Katochi-Antistasi-Apeleftherosi [Macedonia and Thrace. Occupation-Resistance-Liberation], IMXA (269), Thessaloniki 1998, p. 131.
20. See RCHIDNI, F. 495, Op. 69, D. 63. Proceedings of the meeting of 5 January 1934.


  1. I am an American living in Skopje; I have no dog in this Macedonian identity fight, other than I am an amateur historian and enjoy the search for historical truth. I find this site very interesting and it concurs with much of what I have read about the Slavic Macedonian identity.
    However, there is a big error on this site that hurts the credibility of the well researched, factual accounts contained within it:
    The Ancient Macedonians were barbarians; which literally means non-Greek, non-Greek speaking. It is a bit ironic that a non-Greek barbarian, Alexander the Great, is responsible for spreading Hellenistic culture all over the world. But revising history to make this man Greek is historically false and the author should know better. Yes, I know Alexander was tutored by Aristotle, but Greek was a second language for him. Additionally, his Macedonian generals needed interpreters to speak with Greek troops. Macedonians participating in the Olympics is probably the weakest historical claim that Macedonians were Greek, but that is the historical fact that Greek nationalists are "hanging their hats on". No serious Greek historian thinks that the ancient Macedonians were Greek.
    I will be the first to agree that the Slavs claiming to be ethnic Macedonian have no connection to the ancient tribe and are the victims of political propaganda. However, Greeks living in Northern Greece claiming the Macedonian identity (something they never did until recently) and now referring to Northern Greece as Macedonia, is answering a false claim with another false claim. Alexander the Great is prominent in Greek history just as William the Orange is prominent in British history. However, both were foreign conquerors.

  2. Anonymous you put a lot of issues but none of them focus in the content of the article.
    Antony D. Smith remarks that there are two main kinds of ethnic extinction in the full sense: genocide and ethnocide, which is sometimes - at times misleadingly — called «cultural genocide». In one sense genocide is a rare and probably modern phenomenon. It includes those cases where we know that mass death of a cultural group was premeditated and the basis of that targeting was exclusively the existence and membership of that cultural group.

    I am a Macedonian, however I am in no way identified with or related to the newly formed independent state referred to as “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”; I am instead insulted by the fact that I cannot be known as a Macedonian without being identified by others as related to FYROM. This is a rape of my identity and a continuing cultural genocide.

    My cultural identity has been usurped.

    Regarding now the origin of the ancient Macedonians these series of articles might help you.

  3. "I am an American living in Skopje; I have no dog in this Macedonian identity fight"

    -We don't care about your credentials. By proclaiming your neutrality right from the start, you've made me even more suspicious of your motives.

    "The Ancient Macedonians were barbarians; which literally means non-Greek, non-Greek speaking."

    -Incorrect, they're frequently described as Greeks as well.

    "It is a bit ironic that a non-Greek barbarian, Alexander the Great, is responsible for spreading Hellenistic culture all over the world. But revising history to make this man Greek is historically false and the author should know better. Yes, I know Alexander was tutored by Aristotle, but Greek was a second language for him."

    -The Argeads, so also Alexander III, were even more strictly Greek than the common Macedonians since they claimed --and their claim was accepted by the southern Greeks with the exception of Demosthenes etc. in a politically-charged atmosphere-- that they had origins in Peloponnesian Argos.

    "Additionally, his Macedonian generals needed interpreters to speak with Greek troops."

    -You got it backwards, you meant "his Greek general(s) needed interpreters to speak with Macedonian troops" and you're probably referring to Eumenes. But it's also wrong, since Eumenes could speak the Macedonian dialect as the sources show.

    "Macedonians participating in the Olympics is probably the weakest historical claim that Macedonians were Greek, but that is the historical fact that Greek nationalists are "hanging their hats on"."

    -Not only that.

    "However, Greeks living in Northern Greece claiming the Macedonian identity (something they never did until recently) and now referring to Northern Greece as Macedonia, is answering a false claim with another false claim."

    -Inaccurate. If I bring you Greeks from the 18th and 19th (and even earlier) centuries "claiming the Macedonian identity", will you eat our hats? Or is that "too recent" for you? Also, "Northern Greece" is Macedonia AND Thrace and "Macedonia" has been referred to as such from the incorporation of the area into the modern Greek state (not to mention, even earlier).

    -In other words, you've fed us nonsense frequently propagated by Slav Macedonians while pretending to be "neutral".

  4. Established (as opposed to fairy-tale) scholarship affirms in many ways that the ancient Macedonians were part of the Greek-speaking world. Whether they were "barbarians" or "vegetarians" their, and Alexander's, critical importance is the spreading of Greek culture and the enhancement of its power to an extent that it survived the new age of empire (specifically Roman) that the disparate and weak city states could not have survived. Ironically, had Demosthenes won the day with his Phillipics and the "barbarian" Macedonians had been successfully resisted, Greek culture and language would have ended. The ancient Macedonians were the keystone that arched the Greek world of the city states, to the "Hellenistic" period, to the "Byzantine" and to a modern Greece that simply would never have come into being (for better or worse) without them.

    I am a little embarrassed to respond to ahistorical rubbish like that from the "neutral" poster above. It's a little like trying to correct someone who insists that the earth is flat. There's no point in it really.


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