One Hundred Years of Occupation
By Risto Stefov
Lecture - presented for the Historical Society in Toronto on January 27, 2013
In spite of the Macedonian people having risen in 1903 to fight for their freedom and to create an Independent Macedonian state, only ten years later, Macedonia was brutally invaded, occupied and partitioned by its neighbours Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria; a partition validated by the European Great Powers on August 10, 1913 by the Treaty of Bucharest.
Why did this happen? What were the factors leading up to it? And who wanted this to happen?
In the past I have done lectures where we looked at events and how they unfolded. Today, in this lecture, in addition to looking at “how” events unfolded, we will also look at “why” events unfolded, “who” was behind them and “what” were their aims. We will look at a number of events in chronological order keeping in mind how all this fits in the bigger picture. What I will say today, for some, will be new, unusual and probably never heard of before.
Now let us look at the “theme” of this lecture – the word “occupation”. What does it mean and how does it apply to Macedonia.
According to the Oxford dictionary of current English, occupation in this sense means: “Being occupied by armed forces of another country…” Well, armed forces belonging to Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria did invade and occupy Macedonia in October 1912 and have been there ever since. That is, until 1991 when the Serbian army left the Serbian occupied part of Macedonia and that part became the independent Republic of Macedonia. Sadly the parts of Macedonia awarded to Greece, Bulgaria and Albania are still occupied to this day.
But what “really” happened in Macedonia and to the Macedonian people in the last 100 years was more than just an “occupation”. It was more than just armies entering a region and laying claims to it. It was a deliberately perpetrated act to forcibly grab Macedonian lands and to destroy the Macedonian identity and culture. It was a deliberate act which, according to the Oxford dictionary, can be interpreted as: “Genocide!” Yes Genocide, intentionally perpetrated against the Macedonian culture and against the Macedonian nation.
If this is hard to believe or hard to accept that Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria intentionally committed genocidal acts against the Macedonian culture and against the Macedonian people, then ask yourselves this;
Did Macedonians exist in Macedonia when it was brutally invaded, occupied and partitioned in 1912 and 1913 by Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria?
YES they did! How do we know? Among other things, from historical evidence left behind!
Yes! We all know that Macedonians existed in 1912, 1913. In fact the whole world knew that Macedonians existed even before that because they read about them in their newspapers. The entire world read about the 1903 Ilinden Uprising and how the Macedonian people were struggling to free themselves from Ottoman oppression! Today we have hundreds of newspaper clippings from that time, from practically every major newspaper in the world, which, without a doubt, proves that Macedonians existed in 1903, only a decade before Macedonia was brutally invaded, occupied and partitioned by Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria.
Unfortunately today both Greece and Bulgaria claim that Macedonians don’t exist? If that is true then what happened to them? Where did they all go? Did they all vanish? Were they all assimilated?”
Knowing that Macedonians did exist in 1903, on account of all those newspaper reports, then why did the Great Powers allow Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria to invade, occupy and partition Macedonia and suppress the existence of the Macedonian culture? Is that in itself not genocide?
So, what did Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria do with the Macedonians they inherited in 1913? Well, from what history has shown, they assimilated some, they exiled some and they killed some, by the tens of thousands and by the hundreds of thousands at every opportunity! History is full of such examples.
And what do we call acts like changing people’s names by force, prohibiting people from speaking their mother tongue, for some the only language they spoke? How do we define acts such as these? Are they not cultural genocide?
And let us not forget the harsh punishments associated with enforcing these acts, especially the law of prohibiting the use of the Macedonian language!
Did you know that while the sons of Macedonians in Greece fought the Italians in the Albanian frontier during World War II and sacrificed themselves to preserve the integrity of Greece and to keep the Greeks safe, their fathers were sent to jail by the Greeks, to the Greek islands, for speaking Macedonian at home?! What do we dare call that?!
Now let us ask ourselves this: “What possible reasons could Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria have to commit cultural genocide against the Macedonian people? Why couldn’t they just leave the Macedonian people alone?”
Well, to understand why they did this, we need to go back in time and take a look at events that led to it.
At some point in time during the 19th century, after Nationalism came to exist and after ordinary people started being loyal to nations, the idea of modern homogeneous countries with permanent and solid borders was born.
Even though nationalism was popular and adopted by many countries, it was very rare that a country would be homogeneous meaning that all the people within its borders would belong to a single nation. In practical terms there would always be people belonging to other nations; or what we today call “minorities”.
In those days it was NOT desirable to have minorities in one’s country and there were strong attempts by authorities to homogenize the population by assimilating the minorities into the majority. It was believed that if all the people living within the borders of a country belonged to the same nation there would be no differences between the people to divide them and this would make the country stronger.
This however, also had an opposite effect. In other words, if we were to take all the people inside a country, inside a set of borders and break them down to their “ethnic components” and allow them to exist as such, that country would become weak and eventually break up. Yugoslavia was a good example of this. When Yugoslavia was first created the people were told that they were all “Slavs” and therefore brothers and sisters “bradstvo edinstvo”. But as the country matured and people discovered who they really were, Yugoslavia evolved first to the Kingdom of the Serbians, Croatians and Slovenes, then to Federal Yugoslavia with six republics and eventually to seven independent states; Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia – Herzegovina, Macedonia, Kosovo and Montenegro.
So, 19th century philosophy dictated that it was preferable to have one country, one nation and one people because that way the country would be strong. So governments and authorities strived to assimilate the minorities into the majority and create one homogeneous nation inside each country. Unfortunately, this was done under brutal circumstances without giving regard to the destruction of cultures.
With some countries, like Greece and Bulgaria, this practice has continued to this day because they still believe that their countries will weaken and break apart, like Yugoslavia, if they recognize all the ethnicities living inside their borders.
So, how does all this fit with Macedonia and with its 100 year occupation? Well, let us look at the region’s history and see what took place that led to this.
As we know, the Balkan Region for more that 2,000 years, since Philip II’s time, was a single, large borderless unit occupied by several consecutive Empires, the Ottoman Empire being the last to occupy it. Then, during the 19th century, it was broken up and made into several smaller modern countries.
The Great Powers of the 19th century were well aware that the Ottoman Empire, compared to themselves, was weakening and would eventually collapse. But even though that part of the region, as a large landscape, protected the West from Eastern invasions, they still did not want it to exist as a single political unit because they felt it would always be a threat to them. So they preferred to see it broken up. But, if the Ottoman Empire were to break up what would become of its pieces? This essentially gave birth to what later came to be known as the “Eastern Question”. In other words, “What kind of countries would replace the Ottoman Empire?”
The Ottoman Empire was very weak and any one of the Great Powers could have dealt it a death blow. But because all the Great Powers, except for Russia, had investments in it, no one alone dared touch it because they knew the others would retaliate. So to avoid conflict between themselves, the Great Powers refrained from directly interfering in Ottoman affairs. In the long term however they used their proxies, Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria to do their dirty work.
At one point in the mid 1870’s, Russia lost patience with the slow pace of Ottoman decay and decided to attack it. But as expected, the other Great Powers intervened and, in a humiliating way, kicked Russia out of the Balkans. So even though Russia came out victorious, all its sacrifices were in vain.
Some analysts believe that this humiliation created animosities between Russia and the other Powers which lasted through the First and Second World Wars and subsequently sparked the Cold War.
But what many people don’t know is that this Russian-Turkish War was not exclusively fought by Russians alone. There were also Macedonians and other Balkan people that participated in it.
Many of the Macedonian refugees who fled the Ottoman Empire, for various reasons including to avoid persecution for their participation in uprisings, eventually, through Austro-Hungary, found their way to Russia. Russia at the time created a zone of colonies on its southern European frontiers where it settled all refugees and immigrants fleeing Ottoman oppression. It was these colonies that provided Russia with its best fighters. The colonies formed their own Macedonian battalions led by Macedonian commanders and these men were Russia’s fiercest fighters because they believed they were fighting for their own homeland.
While fighting Napoleon, the Western Powers, especially Great Britain and France, but also Prussia and Austro-Hungary became aware of the enormous Russian military power. During the Peace Conference in Ljubljana immediately after Napoleon’s defeat, the Western Powers became aware of Russian’s aspirations to have access to warm seas.
They also identified two “means” by which Russia was going to achieve its aspirations: Panslavism and Orthodoxy. Panslavism would enable Russia to access the sea ports from the southern Baltics and from the Triest and Dalmatian ports to Solun in Macedonia. Whereas Orthodoxy would help Russia also include Greece in its plans.
The Western Powers, particularly Great Britain, but also France, reacted immediately. To prevent the use of Orthodoxy they constituted Greece under their own patronage. For these reasons, the Western Powers also helped the Ottoman Empire suppress the Serbian, Bulgarian and Macedonian liberations.
In the 1860’s the Western Powers helped the Ottomans directly in order to prevent Russia from accessing the Black Sea – the Western Powers became involved in the Crimean war.
In 1878 they prevented Bulgaria’s liberation and access to the Aegean Sea. The Great Powers also imposed a German ruler in order to pull Bulgaria away from Russia. The same scenario was enacted in 1903 and in 1912/13: To prevent Macedonia’s liberation which would have automatically allowed Russia access to the northern coast of the Aegean Sea including Solun. This is because the Macedonians were a very important part of the Russian army and through Macedonia’s liberation Russia would have found a strong ally in Macedonia.
This scenario was repeated again and again. After WW I, Triest was given to Italy in order to prevent Yugoslavia from making it available to Russia. The same was repeated after WW II. And in all mentioned cases Russia permitted such actions for its own interests letting down its allies again and again.
One thing the then Great Powers would agree on was that they did not want the Ottoman Empire to be replaced with a single large state. A single large State would be potentially dangerous to them in the future. So they all agreed that the Ottoman Empire had to break up into smaller components. They also agreed that these components would need to be polarized so that they hated each other and there would be no chance of them ever uniting. They also needed to be of equal size so that no one component would have the ability to dominate or swallow any of the others if war was to break out between them.
The one thing that the Great Powers could not agree on was who was going to have influence over which of these components. This is because the Great Powers themselves were in competition with each other for dominance of the region.
As the Ottoman Empire began to crumble at its edges, the Great Powers assisted in every way they could, including helping the smaller nations establish and define themselves.
Here is an example of how the Great Powers influenced these new countries and turned them into their proxies.
The British under Canning’s leadership created a policy to head off Russia’s advance, not by direct opposition, but by liberating and creating national States out of the component parts of the Ottoman Empire. Such States could then be relied upon to withstand Russian encroachment on their independence. The creation of the Kingdom of Greece was the immediate outcome of Canning’s policy.
By the turn of the 20th century, Serbia, Greece and Bulgaria were already sovereign countries with supposedly “homogeneous” populations and looking to expand their territories.
By the turn of the 20th century all that remained of the Ottoman Empire in Europe was the internal core which consisted mostly of Thrace, Macedonia and Albania.
With Macedonia being the largest and main component of the European part of the Ottoman Empire, the question on everyone’s mind was “What will happen to Macedonia and to the Macedonian people” after the Ottoman Empire completely crumbled? This gave birth to what we today call “The Macedonian Question”.
But as we are now discovering, “The Macedonian Question”, at a diplomatic level and in the halls of secrecy had already been answered. The Great Powers and Royals of the time had by now already decided that there would be no Macedonia and the Macedonian territories would be awarded to the Greek, Serbian and Bulgarian kingdoms looking to expand their territories.
So, at some point in time after the Russian-Turkish War, which ended in 1878, the European Great Powers, primarily Britain and France, made a decision not to help Macedonia become an independent state and that the Macedonian territory would be divided and awarded to Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria. But the division would have to be done along “national lines”. Remember, the Great Powers believed in the strength of homogeneous nations, especially in their proxies!
So those three harmless words “along national lines” brought great misery to the Macedonian people that has lasted to this day and is still ongoing in Greece and Bulgaria.
The Great Powers wanted small, equal sized and homogeneous states out of the ashes of the multi-lingual, multi-ethnic, multi-religious, multi-cultural Ottoman Empire and these new upstart Balkan States were going to do just that, create the homogeneity if they had to, at any cost, even if they had to destroy the entire ancient Macedonian culture.
As we know today, the Greeks, Serbians and Bulgarians of that time knew that no “ethnic” Greeks, Serbians, or Bulgarians lived in Macedonia. How could they, when the Greek, Serbian and Bulgarian identity did not form through its natural course. How could there be when these identities were thrust upon these Balkan people practically overnight by the Great Powers. One day these people were Christians and citizens of a 500 year old Ottoman Empire. The next day they were told that they were Greeks, Serbians and Bulgarians. These people, however, through education and intense propaganda, quickly adapted to their new identities.
In Macedonia however, Macedonians already knew that they were Macedonian and the children of Alexander the Great, as they called themselves on many occasions. So fooling the Macedonians into believing that they were Greeks, Serbians and Bulgarians, all at the same time, was not going to be an easy task. But that did not stop our neighbours from trying!
Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria first tried using propaganda to convince the Macedonians that they were Greeks, Serbians and Bulgarians. When that didn’t work they tried opening churches and classifying people by church affiliation. When that did not work they tried opening schools and educating the young to be good Greeks, Serbians and Bulgarians. When that did not work they sent armed hoodlums to frighten the Macedonians into becoming Greeks, Serbians and Bulgarians.
At some point in time the three, Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria, had decided that the best criteria for classifying Macedonians as Greeks, Serbians and Bulgarians would be by their Church affiliation.
Towards the end of the 19th century Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria were allowed to establish their own “National” churches inside Macedonia. The Macedonians also tried to establish a Macedonian church but they were not allowed by the Ottoman authorities mainly because of protests from the other churches who did not want a Macedonian church to be established.
In those days, under Ottoman rule, the church was the ultimate authority over the nation similar to what governments are today.
And because there was no Macedonian Church the Macedonian Christians could only belong to the Greek, Serbian, or Bulgarian Church. So, if a person belonged to one of these churches they were assumed to belong to the “national” identity associated with that Church.
So in our neighbours’ estimation “not having a recognized Macedonian church meant no Macedonian identity existed”. This idea was neatly packaged by Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria and sold to the entire world. Today we have uncovered numerous census reports released by Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria that say “NO” Macedonians lived in Macedonia before, during and after 1903! Now we know why. Because these census reports were based on church affiliation and not on ethnicity!
Naturally, these “assigned identities” to the Macedonians were fluid and people did switch from one Church to another. This too was reflected in the countless census statistic reports released in those days by Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria. People switched “church affiliation” for various reasons depending on which Church offered them better perks, which Church offered them more benefits, which Church offered their children better education and later, which Church exerted more pressure or made stronger threats on their lives.
By the turn of the 20th century the Macedonian people felt they had had enough. They had had enough of the Ottomans who were taxing them to starvation so that they could pay their debts to Western European banks. And they had had enough of their neighbours meddling in their affairs. So, they decided it was time to do something. They decided to plan a rebellion!
Macedonia’s neighbours however would not relent until they possessed Macedonia for themselves as they were promised by the Great Powers and did everything in their powers to achieve that. They even went as far as sabotaging the Macedonian rebellion being planned.
Because of time constraints during this lecture, I will present you with only one example of how one of Macedonia’s neighbours interfered in the Macedonian plans for the Ilinden Uprising.
It was no secret that after the San Stefano Treaty in 1878, Bulgaria wanted all of Macedonia for itself and sought ways to get it. To achieve this, Bulgaria created the External or supremacist or as we call it, Vrhovist Macedonian Revolutionary Organization with aims to free Macedonia from the Ottomans and Annex it to Bulgaria. It was called external because it was headquartered in Sofia, Bulgaria.
Those aims however had to be hidden from the public for a couple of reasons. One, Bulgaria was not allowed to politically or militarily interfere in Ottoman affairs and two, the vast majority of the Macedonian people wanted a free and independent Macedonia and would not favour the idea of a Macedonia to be annexed by Bulgaria.
But a closer look at this Vrhovist organization’s activities reveals that it was created not to help but to weaken the real or Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization by interfering in its affairs and by confusing and dividing the Macedonian people.
Bulgaria knew that the fall of the Ottoman Empire was imminent and it believed that if it occupied Macedonia first, before Greece or Serbia, it would have Russia’s support and better leverage for negotiating a bigger slice of Macedonian territory. Unfortunately at that time Bulgaria was not militarily strong enough to attack and defeat the Ottoman Empire on its own. But it figured that if there was a clash between the Macedonian people and the Ottoman authorities it would weaken the Ottoman Empire. And at the same time if the Macedonian people failed to liberate themselves then this would open opportunities for Bulgaria to charge in, attack and defeat the weakened Ottoman Empire, occupy Macedonia and pretend it was done in order to save the Macedonian people from Ottoman backlash and retaliation.
But in order for this to work, the Macedonian people would have to fail in their attempt to liberate themselves.
To ensure that that would happen, Bulgaria had to, one, instigate the Macedonian people to start a rebellion and, two, make sure the liberation was a failure.
A failed liberation attempt would prompt retaliation from the Ottoman Empire and that would give Bulgaria a reason to militarily invade Macedonia without too many consequences or severe retaliation from the Great Powers.
But, how could Bulgaria ensure that the rebellion would fail?” By forcing the Macedonian people into a rebellion before they were ready!
And why would the Macedonian leadership agree to take part in a rebellion before the people were ready?
Well, no one said it was going to be easy. That is why Bulgaria made many promises;
1. It promised the Macedonian leadership help. Bulgaria assured the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization that it would supply it with guns and the moment the rebellion started, it promised that it would order the Bulgarian army to attack the Ottoman Empire. Bulgaria did deliver on the guns but failed to deliver on ammunition. So the guns were as good as useless.
2. It promised not to interfere in internal affairs. But, unbeknownst to the Macedonians, the Bulgarians made sure that the Macedonians would remain weak. Every time the Bulgarians felt that the Macedonians were getting strong, they would, in some small way, betray them to the Ottomans.
3. It forced an early Uprising. When the Bulgarians could not convince the Macedonian leaders to start the uprising willingly, they took matters into their own hands. The Bulgarians had the Ottomans arrest the top Internal Macedonian Revolutionary leaders and then sent their own Vrhovist leaders to replace them.
The Bulgarians, some say the Bulgarian king himself, provided the Ottoman authorities with a list of all the names of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization central leaders and in February of 1903, almost all of them were rounded up, arrested and jailed. Only a few managed to dodge the authorities. Gotse Delchev was among the few who were not caught.
No sooner had the arrests been made than members of the Vrhovist organization were sent from Bulgaria to replace the jailed Macedonian leaders. The Vrhovists met in Solun and on their own decided to start the uprising. The news of the uprising created great confusion among the unprepared regional leadership. A second meeting was called to review the details of the Solun meeting. The second meeting was to take place in Smilevo on May 3, 1903.
Gotse Delchev was against starting an early uprising because, as the supreme commander of the Macedonian forces, he was well aware of the fact that the Macedonians were not ready to start an Uprising and win. When Delchev became aware of the Solun meeting he was furious and wanted to rush to Smilevo in person and convince the delegates that it would be suicidal to start an uprising at this point in time when most of the regions were not ready.
On his way to Smilevo, Delchev was ambushed in Banitsa and killed!
Was this a coincidence? The entire Ottoman army had been looking for Delchev for months and could not find him. Let me say this: He managed to dodge the Ottoman authorities since he joined the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization and also managed to dodge them while everyone else was caught. So, how was it that he was suddenly not found, but killed? I can tell you this: History has shown that it was by no coincidence that Delchev was killed on his way to Smilevo. He was killed because he was preparing to stop the 1903 uprising from taking place.
So let us ask ourselves: “Was Delchev not a patriotic Macedonian? Did Delchev not want Macedonia to be liberated?” If he was and if he did then why would he want to stop the uprising from taking place? Unless, of course he believed that an early uprising would not succeed and would destroy the Macedonian people’s chance of liberating themselves?! Delchev was a smart man and knew exactly what was going on and that is exactly why he was murdered!
The Smilevo meeting took place without Delchev and even though 80% of the district Chiefs reported that their districts were NOT ready for an early uprising, the uprising took place anyway. And as we know it was not only a disaster, it changed the course of the Macedonian peoples’ history forever!
And in the end, all Bulgarian promises turned out to be false. As for Bulgaria invading Macedonia after the uprising collapsed; Bulgaria was told by Russia to “stay out” because if it invaded Macedonia at this point, it would not only lose Macedonia but it might also lose its own territory.
In fact, the Great Powers ordered all of Macedonia’s neighbours to stay out of Macedonia during the Uprising and just observe while the Ottoman army pummeled the Macedonian people to death. The Great Powers also stayed out and watched from the distance, from their ships in the Aegean Sea, while Macedonian villages burned like candles in the dark of night.
The Great Powers were well aware that the Macedonian people had risen to fight for their freedom and to create a Macedonian state, but decided not to help them, not to become involved. Had the Macedonians succeeded in their fight, perhaps there would be a united Macedonian state today and Macedonia would not have been divided. But failing to gain their independence convinced the Great Powers that the Macedonian people were not worth saving. So thanks to Bulgarian interference the Macedonian people not only lost their chance at independence and creating their own country, but at the same time became prey for Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria.
Now it was no longer “if” but “when” Macedonia was going to be invaded, occupied and partitioned by its neighbours. Immediately after the failed Macedonian uprising, all three countries intensified their preparations for war and in 1912 the three jointly invaded Macedonia, in what is now termed the First Balkan War, and drove the Ottomans out. When the three couldn’t decide how to divide Macedonia, they fought each other for more territory. When Romania got involved the Great Powers stepped in and put an end to the fighting by the 1913 Treaty of Bucharest.
It would appear from what we know so far, that there were no safeguards or arrangements put in the 1913 Treaty of Bucharest regarding the rights of the Macedonian people that came with the lands. In other words, the 1913 Treaty of Bucharest says nothing about the people living on the Macedonian lands granted to Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria. It was left up to the three occupiers to decide their fate.
Before I finish with this example, let me say this:
We are all proud of the idea that the Macedonians, our forefathers, created the first Republic in Europe but do we, for a moment, think what it means? Our forefathers tried to create a Republic during a time when every country in Europe, including the Great Powers, were kingdoms. If you understand what that means you will understand that creating a Republic in the middle of the most powerful kingdoms in the world was like entering a bear’s den blindfolded; like attempting to bring communism into a powerful capitalist state! It was NOT the thing to do in those days!
What kind of impression do you think our forefathers left in the minds of the Great Powers when they decided to create a Republic in the middle of all those kingdoms? Think about it! And did they really think the Great Powers were going to help them? What a blunder!
Soon after Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria consolidated their power over Macedonian territory, through their military occupying forces, they told the people that only Greeks lived in the Greek occupied part; Serbians lived in the Serbian occupied part and Bulgarians lived in the Bulgarian occupied part of Macedonia. Anyone who did not agree with that was told to “pick up what they could carry and leave”.
Subsequent to that the Greeks were claiming that people left voluntarily, but many people interviewed later testified that they were driven out by force for various reasons including for being affiliated with the Bulgarian Church or for fighting in the Ilinden Uprising.
The Greeks also expelled many Macedonians because they were Muslims. Even though these people insisted that they were Macedonians and not Turks, they were expelled anyway.
After World War I in 1919 at the Treaty of Versailles, the European Great Powers ratified the principles of the 1913 Treaty of Bucharest and the three occupiers Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria were basically given the right to do whatever they wanted with their part of Macedonia and with the people they inherited with it. And so they did.
By the Neuilly Convention, signed on November 27, 1919 between Greece and Bulgaria, Greek authorities rounded up 80,000 Macedonians, mainly because they were affiliated with the Bulgarian Church, and expelled them to Bulgaria. While Bulgaria forced out about 25,000 Macedonians because they were affiliated with the Greek Church.
Then came the Treaty of Lausanne signed in July, 1923 after the Greek-Turkish war ended. This Treaty called for the compulsory exchange of populations between Greece and Turkey. Through this Treaty Greece forcibly exiled 354,000 ethnic Macedonians because they were Muslim by religion and imported 1.1 million Christian Turkish colonists from Asia Minor of whom they settled 660,000 in Macedonia. This in fact changed Macedonia’s demography for the first time in Macedonia’s history.
Now it seems, official Greek policy is to call these colonists “autochthonous Macedonians” while they deny the real Macedonians their rights and identity. Greek propaganda now claims that a population of 2.5 million “pure Macedonians” live in “Greek Macedonia”; this includes their former Prime Minister Karamanlis who is in fact an Asia Minor colonist.
Then came the erasure of everything that pointed to a Macedonian existence. Both Greece and Serbia developed policies to change people’s names and make them sound more Greek and Serbian. The Greeks enacted laws that renamed all the Macedonian people’s names, toponyms and place names and made them Greek sounding. The Greeks also burned all the Macedonian Bibles written in Kiril and Metodi’s Old Macedonian alphabet and painted Greek letters over the Macedonian Cyrillic script on church icons and other relics. The Greeks also desecrated Macedonian cemeteries by removing and destroying headstones and by plowing over them. They literally destroyed all evidence of a Macedonian existence.
They also attacked the Macedonian language, the only living thing remaining that was proof of a Macedonian existence. The harshest measures taken against the Macedonian language were during the Metaxas dictatorship years after Metaxas came to power on August 4, 1936. During that time the Greek regime strongly opposed the use of the Macedonian language and harshly punished and jailed those speaking it in public or in private.
The Greek regime showed its true cruelty towards the Macedonian people when it sent many Macedonians to prison in the Greek island prison camps for simply speaking their native mother tongue; the only language they knew.
All three; Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria interfered in Macedonian affairs all through World War II and throughout the Greek Civil War; too many incidents to mention here. Perhaps I can talk about those in another lecture.
But the final insult against the Macedonian people came when Greece, in the 1980’s, introduced the law on repatriation which allowed only “Greeks by birth” to return back to their place of origin!
And who exactly are these Greeks by birth? Here again Greece has used an “ambiguous expression” and some legal maneuvers to basically exclude whoever it wants. But we all know this ambiguity was created to weed out the Macedonians.
Allow me to explain.
After all the population exchanges took place, about which I mentioned earlier, Greece announced to the world that “only Greeks now live in Greece”. In the late 1920’s Greece released demographic statistics claiming that 98% pure Greeks and 2% Muslim Greeks lived in Greece. This was not a joke!
So, according to these statistics, basically everyone who lived in Greece, say after 1930, was pure Greek. That means that everyone who left Greece during the Greek Civil War in 1949 was also Greek. So why would Greece need a law to repatriate “only Greeks by birth” if everyone in Greece was Greek in the first place? And who were these “other” people who were not Greeks by birth that Greece did not want back?
By claiming to have “98% pure Greeks and 2% Muslim Greeks” living in Greece, Greek authorities whitewashed the idea of any “other” ethnicities living in Greece. On the surface this looked like 100% Greeks live in Greece. A normal person would interpret this to mean that Greece was 100% homogeneous because the entire Greek population was “ethnically” Greek. And that is exactly how Greece wanted people to think!
But looking into their statement a bit deeper one would notice the word “Muslim” which in fact implies “religious affiliation”. The word “pure” is a bit strange but not if we replace it with “Orthodox”. Orthodoxy can be viewed as a pure religion.
The word “Greek” is a bit confusing because there was no such thing as an “ethnic” Greek at that time. In fact there was no ethnic or national Greek identity prior to the creation of the Greek state in 1829. So at that point in time the idea of someone being “Greek” could have meant a number of things. A Greek citizen could be Greek. A person speaking the so-called Greek language could be considered to be Greek. A person living inside Greece’s borders could be called a Greek. A person with a Greek sounding name could be a Greek. And so on.
By claiming to have “98% pure Greeks and 2% Muslim Greeks” living in Greece the Greek authorities in effect meant that “98% of the population living inside the current borders of Greece are Orthodox Christian and 2 % are Muslim”, which says absolutely nothing about the “ethnic composition” of the population inside Greece. In other words Greece doesn’t say it, but it wants you to think that 100% “ethnic Greeks” live in Greece. So the stats Greece released in the late 1920’s reflected the country’s “religious affiliation” and NOT its ethnic composition!
You can see here how Greece is using ambiguity to basically include and exclude whoever it wants. Legally, here Greece can argue that a person cannot possibly be Greek if they don’t have a Greek name or if they claim to be born in a village that does not have a Greek name! So, all those who changed their Greek names back to their Macedonian names while outside of Greece were not allowed to return. In other words, you can’t possibly have a Macedonian name if you were born in Greece.
How did I arrive at this conclusion you ask?
Well, when I knew nothing about all this, being very curious about how Greece came to have 100% pure Greeks, I decided to look into it. My first task was to verify that indeed 98% pure Greeks and 2% Muslim Greeks live in Greece.
Now, I have to admit that I don’t know everyone in Greece but I do know everyone from my village which since 1913 has been part of Greece. So if my village is part of Greece then the people living in it should belong to one of the “official” Greek categories “pure Greeks” or “Muslim Greeks”.
But to my surprise I could not find a single “ethnic Greek” in my village. Of all the people I asked if they were “Greek” not one said they were! Those who did say they were Greeks turned out to have Macedonian parents or grandparents so in fact they were not “ethnic” Greeks.
No, this can’t be right! I was explicitly taught this in school and I know institutions, governments, Churches, Priests, etc. don’t openly lie when they can be challenged! So I thought it had to be some kind of trick!
I then expanded my inquiry and began asking other people, from other villages to identify the Greeks in their village. I did this with many villages and with many people I know. But in the end I failed to find any ethnic Greeks living anywhere in Greek occupied Macedonia! I found Turkish Asia Minor colonists, Vlachs, Albanians, a lot of Macedonians… But not a single ethnic Greek! No one could prove that they were “ethnic” Greek!
So, who are these “elusive” ethnic Greeks and where could they be found?
Now I became really curious and started to look for “ethnic” Greeks south of Mount Olympus and there too I could not find a single ethnic Greek with a history that stretched beyond the existence of the Modern Greek state.
I was not the only one either. In my research I found over 200 authors, all of them westerners, who felt that Greece and the Greeks were a new creation that never existed before.
I will read you a quote from one of those authors who loves Greece but loves the truth even more:
“Further back still beyond the War of Independence, when the modern nation-state of Greece came into being for the first time, the whole concept of Greece as a geographical entity that begins to blur before our eyes, so many and various were its shapes and meanings. But if geography can offer us no stable idea of Greece, what can? Not race, certainly; for whatever the Greeks may once have been, ...., they can hardly have had much blood-relationship with the Greeks of the peninsula of today, Serbs and Bulgars, Romans, Franks and Venetians, Turks, Albanians,..., in one invasion after another have made the modern Greeks a decidedly mongrel race. Not politics either; for in spite of that tenacious western legend about Greece as the birthplace and natural home of democracy, the political record of the Greeks is one of a singular instability and confusion in which, throughout history, the poles of anarchy modulated freedom has very rarely appeared. Not religion; for while Byzantium was Christian, ancient Hellas was pagan.” David Holden, “Greece without Columns”.
When I found out that there are “literally” no “ethnic Greeks” to be found anywhere, I became curious as to how Greece could be populated with 100% Greeks and not a single one of them was an ethnic Greek.
But, I think I will stop here and leave this topic for another lecture.
From what I discovered in my research, the term “Greek” is so ambiguous that everyone who lives in Greece can be a “Greek” by geography, by political affiliation, by church affiliation or one can be a Greek by having a Greek sounding name or simply by being a Greek citizen.
I have approached people with this information in hand who strongly believe they are Greeks and when everything was said and done, I asked them, “If you were not Greeks by ethnicity then what makes you Greek?” Almost without exception, they all said: “They were Greek because they felt like Greeks, spoke the Greek language and were very proud of being Greek.” In other words, even pride can make Greeks out of Vlachs, Albanians, Turks and even Macedonians!
But this has not stopped these fake Greeks from interfering in Macedonian affairs and from claiming that Macedonians do not exist and we the “autochthonous Macedonians” can’t be Macedonians because the Macedonians are Greek. Greek interference in Macedonian affairs is not limited to only inside Greece. Greeks also interfere in Macedonian affairs everywhere in the world.
The invention of the so-called “Name Dispute” is another example of how Greece has used its influence to not only fool the entire world about what is going on, but to also distract the Macedonian people from their real challenges; the fact that Macedonia is occupied by Greece and that the Macedonian people have no rights and are abused to no end!
The so-called “Name dispute” is a perfect example where outside interference has not only preoccupied the entire Macedonian nation with a nonsensical and whimsical problem but it has also placed Macedonia in a losing situation. Because the Greeks, with the invention of the so-called “name dispute” have placed themselves in a position where “the solution to this problem” is entirely dependent on them, there is no “winning” exit scenario out of this mess for Macedonia. Macedonia unwittingly put its foot in this trap and is now faced with three possible scenarios.
1. Voluntarily change its own name in order to exit this problem and be accepted in International organizations. This scenario, if taken, will literally forever end the Macedonian identity and permanently close the Macedonian question. In other words, if Macedonians change their own name they will seal their own fate.
2. Remain in limbo and remain a Greek hostage forever. Greece is inside, in the warm atmosphere of our home while we linger and protest outside in the cold so why would Greece care if this “problem” goes on forever? Greece has the upper hand. Greece possesses our lands and controls our destiny, so why would Greece seek a solution that might change all that. Greece would love to see this problem go on unresolved forever because it is in Greece’s interest. There is no incentive for Greece to solve this problem.
Even if the name dispute is resolved, Greece will fabricate and introduce a new problem to keep us busy running around in circles.
But we can’t blame Greece entirely for protecting its interests. It seems that Greece sets the traps for us and we, without thinking, put our feet in them.
If you disagree with me then tell me, “What are we doing negotiating our own country’s name with our worst enemy?” Think about it!
3. A repeat of the 1912, 1913 scenario. Macedonia could be forced by the Great Powers to change its name in order to comply with Greece’s wishes. If it refuses it can be invaded. It almost happened about a decade ago. Now, not only do we have the Greeks and Bulgarians, we also have the Albanians vying for a slice of Macedonia. All the Great Powers have to say is either change your name or face the consequences. We are getting tired of you dragging this problem! This scenario will solve “everyone’s” problems except for our own!
By accepting to negotiate our own name, with our worst enemy, we put ourselves in a trap from which it will be very difficult to escape without dire consequences.
The only way out of this problem is if the entire world disagrees with Greece and makes an effort to help us. But what are the chances of that happening when we know countries like France not only created Greece but also sanctioned its activities against us including the population exchanges and the signing of the 1913 Treaty of Bucharest. As long as Greece has the support of one Great Power it will never relent!
All three; Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria have interfered in Macedonian affairs; but most of all Greece and Bulgaria. In the past they each created fake Macedonian organizations in the Diaspora to market their anti-Macedonian propaganda; not only to lie to the world about Macedonia but to keep the Macedonian people divided.
They each have infiltrated Macedonian organizations and institutions and turned them against the Macedonian cause. They have offered Macedonians free education, passports, citizenship and financial and other help with their businesses in order to stop them from aiding the Macedonian cause.
All this was done and is still being done in order to divide the Macedonian people and keep them weak.
Thankfully one part of Macedonia is free. But unfortunately, three more parts are not. The largest part of Macedonia is still occupied.
So, what can be done to change the situation?
The first thing we need to do is understand our own weaknesses and how we are being manipulated!
As we stand today we are a divided people: not only because of the Grkomani, the Bulgaromani, the Serbomani, the Albanomani and what have you, but also because of ourselves; the real Macedonians.
As a nation, we have yet to learn who we really are. We don’t know who we are because others, our enemies have been defining us. They have been telling us who we are and writing our fake history for us. The same people who until yesterday called us Greeks, Serbians and Bulgarians today are saying that we are “Slavs” that we came from somewhere else and that we can’t be Macedonians. And there are some of us out there who believe them, who believe that we came from somewhere. I have a three volume Macedonian history book at home written in the Macedonian language and published some years ago by a reputable publisher that claims our history began in the 6th century AD when we arrived in Macedonia. In other words, there is no Macedonian history before that!
Has anyone in our entire folklore ever mentioned that we came to Macedonia from somewhere else? Where is the proof that we came from somewhere else? Our true history, however, tells a different story. Our true history is full of signs that point to us being indigenous to Macedonia. More correctly, we are the product of all the people, the indigenous Macedonians and all those people who set foot and left their mark in Macedonia since the melt of the last ice age.
We are Macedonians because we, our fathers and mothers, our grandfathers and grandmothers and many generations of men and women before them, who were born in Macedonia, were Macedonians because the land on which we were born, grew up and died was called Macedonia! We don’t need our enemies to define us and tell us who we are and who we are not! We ARE Macedonians because that is exactly what we are!
Unfortunately, many of us tend to believe the lies of our enemies. And at the same time we seldom question the lies our enemies tell us about themselves.
As a nation we have been manipulated by the Great Powers and by their proxies Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria for over a century and yet to this day we seem to be unaware of it.
We are truth seekers, innocent, peaceful and kind people; traits that define us as a people. Unfortunately these same traits are interpreted as “weaknesses” by our enemies and by the world. We have been peacefully crying foul about our lack of rights in Greece, Bulgaria and Albania and our cries seem to have gone unnoticed. But we have failed to change our strategy! Why?
However, the moment the Albanians in Macedonia brandished their weapons, everyone ran to see what they wanted. On one occasion they were even rescued from being demolished by the Macedonian army. They were rescued not by their allies but by their own enemies; a Macedonian President no less.
Imagine, the Commander in Chief of the Macedonian Army rescuing his enemy. Where in the world have we even heard of a President of a country saving his enemy from being attacked by his own army? Only in Macedonia!
This is equivalent to George W. Bush ordering his army to stand down while he provides buses to save the terrorists who attacked the New York Towers and without disarming them. I think this is the biggest historic blunder we have ever made as Macedonians to date!
Imagine what this act did to the morale of the Macedonian Army! Worse than that, imagine these same hoodlums, who yesterday raised weapons against the Macedonian army and against the Macedonian people, today are the politicians who run the country and the army commanders who lead our forces, even the soldiers who fought against them only yesterday. Imagine! This happens only in Macedonia!
These are unforgivable blunders!
We believe the “words” of others because they sound patriotic and we, on many occasions have allowed outsiders to “manipulate” us and use our kindness and patriotism against us, and if I may add, many times without our knowledge.
Our history is full of such examples! But our history, the true history of what really happened to us has yet to be understood by our people.
We are “truth seekers” yet we are afraid of the truth. We are afraid of standing up and speaking the truth even about the worst things that have been done to us.
Tell me is there no Macedonian out there today who does not know what Greece has done to us?
Tell me is there no Macedonian out there today who does not know that Greece has no authority over the Republic of Macedonia?
So, why are we negotiating our own name with Greece? Is there anyone out there who truly understands what this looks like from other people’s perspectives?
Is there no Macedonian in the Macedonian government who does not know that the Ilinden Uprising took place and that it was a struggle for freedom and for the creation of a Macedonian state? So, why do we allow Greece and Bulgaria to publicly say we don’t exist?
Is there no Macedonian in authority today who does not know how Macedonia was invaded, occupied and partitioned in 1912, 1913 and how Macedonia became Greek, Serbian and Bulgarian?
If there are such people out there then tell me why not one of them has stood up to Greece and to the world and said “something” to that effect?
Alternatively, let us look at Greece’s “real” history. There are hundreds and hundreds of authors and historians that have written about Greece’s real history; about the modern Greeks who are not Greeks at all: who in reality are recent Slav, Albanian and Vlach immigrants who came to the region during the 6th, 11th and 13th century AD. This is Greece’s “real” history! Athens only 200 years ago was an Albanian village of 5,000 people. Look at it today, it is a multi-million metropolis populated by pure Greeks, descendents from the ancient Greeks. What a farce!
Why have we not stood up to these “charlatans” and put them in their place? What are we waiting for? What are we afraid of?
For the last 3 or 4 decades I have watched us playing defense and fumble over and over again. Has it not occurred to us that we can’t win, not even a single game, if we continue to play defense?
If we are such great truth seekers why has not a single Macedonian in authority spoken the truth where it counts? What are we waiting for? Why haven’t we attacked the Greek identity the way they have attacked ours? We are REAL Macedonians and they are not even Greeks!
About five years ago I wrote an e-mail to a prominent historian who had written about Balkan history and asked him why he had not written about us Macedonians!
I got what I thought was a surprising answer! He said, “Why don’t you first write ‘something’ about yourselves and then I will write about you! Where am I supposed to find the information to write about you?”
My point: If we don’t stand up to Greece and Bulgaria who do we expect will?
Well my friends I can tell you this with certainty, “NO ONE” is going to do anything for us if we are not willing to do it for ourselves. In fact, no one is going to do anything for us until we start doing things for ourselves!
So, as Macedonians what exactly do we want from Greece, Bulgaria and Albania? Do we really know and can we agree on what it is that we want? When was the last time we sat down together as Macedonians to decide what it is that we want and what will be acceptable to us?
Within a few years of Israel becoming a country, the Israeli government invited all Israeli Organizations, Associations, intellectuals, etc. and individually interviewed them to find out what they wanted out of Israel. Based on their answers Israel then set out its objectives and successfully sued Germany and other countries who then paid the Israeli people compensation for damages. What have we done to this day to prepare for our future?
If tomorrow Greece calls us to a meeting and asks us what it is that we want from Greece will we be prepared to voice our needs?
This year, 2013 marks the 100th Anniversary since Macedonia's partition. If the Balkan Wars of 1912, 1913 heralded Macedonia's liberation then the 1913 Treaty of Bucharest, dated on August 10th, 1913, marked its tragic partition between Greece, Serbia (former Yugoslavia) and Bulgaria. When the 1913 Treaty of Bucharest was signed Macedonia covered an area of 66,474 km2 out of which 25,713 km2 (today’s Republic of Macedonia) with approximately 1.6 million Macedonian people, was awarded to Serbia (former Yugoslavia). Greece was awarded the southern part of Macedonia consisting of 33,953 km2, slightly over half of Macedonia, with approximately 300,000 Macedonian people. The northeastern part of Macedonia covering 6,808 km2, with approximately 200,000 Macedonian people was awarded to Bulgaria.
If the Balkan Wars brought Macedonia freedom from the Ottoman Empire, then the 1913 Treaty of Bucharest brought partition, denationalization, unprecedented assimilation and exile for thousands from their ancestral homes and hearth. Therefore, let 2013 be the year to annul the illegal 1913 Treaty of Bucharest and realize all of our dreams by unifying all Macedonians in an ethnic Macedonia.