The Ethnic and Historical origins of FYROM Part I

Ethnic and Historical Origins of F.Y.R.O.M – Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

Overview and Introduction

This Page is reserved to highlight the historic and ethnic origins of the Slavs of F.Y.R.O.M and the historical circumstances under which the first emergence of the ethnically artificial ‘Macedonism’ occured during the mid-19th century and the course it has taken until the present day. These first Macedonists were defined as a individuals favouring an autonomous or independent Macedonian state. As an extension of this they favoured, in differing degrees, the complete or partial seperation from the Bulgarian consciousness in the region of a Slavic ‘Macedonian ethnicity’ and hence also a ‘Macedonian’ conciousness and language. The first origins of Macedonism in the mid-19th century occured as a result of the turmoil created by the competing forces in the region; the Austrian, Pan-Slavist Russian and Ottoman Empires as well as Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece and the other Great Powers as well. The geopolitics of the Serbs’ evidently played the crucial role in the ethnogenosis by promoting a seperate Macedonian consciousness at the expense of the Bulgarians. Though the Serbs initially put forward the idea that the majority of Slavs in Macedonia were Serbs; upon the realisation that their initial claim of the Slavs of Macedonia being Serbs and not Bulgarians was making little headway in the solidly Bulgarian Slav population, they began a systematic ‘encouragement’ of a seperate Macedonian consciousness. The Macedonist ideology drew on the historical legacy of the region with an implied sense of ethnicity in order to draw support to its cause. Despite gaining in support and appeal via reactionist forces, the ideology struggled to win the support of the Slavs of Vardar, the majority continued to be described and describe themselves as Bulgarian by all foreign records and censuses.

The ideology later found fruition with the support of the Soviet Union and later advent of Yugoslav communist rule for the sake of the communists’ own political interests. Various declarations were made during the 1920s & 30s seeing the official adoption of Macedonism by the Comintern (the international communist organ headed in Moscow coordinating communist parties in other countries) and in turn declarations were made by the Greek, Yugoslav and Bulgarian communist parties, as they agreed on the adoption of Macedonism as their official policy for the region: the various Comintern congresses of the 1930s called for a ‘Macedonian’ nation as part of a wider ‘Balkan Federation’. In 1944, wartime Yugoslav Communist Partisan leader Tito, who had gained control of the region during the war and aided by growing leftist reactionist support for Macedonism, proclaimed the ‘Peoples’ Republic of Macedonia’ as part of the Yugoslav Federation, thus partially forfilling the Comintern’s pre-war policy, despite a split between Tito and Stalin in 1948. With the break up of Yugoslavia in 1991, the independent ‘Republic of Macedonia’ was proclaimed. The situation exists today in the form where the Slavs of F.Y.R.O.M (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) have a ‘Macedonian’ nationality, a nationality having been constructed for over a century, owing to multiple historic and political factors. Primary and secondary sources following will illustrate this point.

French statistics on Ottoman Macedonia. The statistics listed are the number schools, teachers and students according to nationality; Greek, Bulgarian, Serb or Vlach in the various cities

Overview of Slavic Migratory history in the Balkans and Macedonia

Slavs had arrived in the region after crossing the Danube during the 6th and 7th centuries AD. The inhabitants of Macedonia of significant numbers prior to the large South Slavic migrations, were the Greeks, the Vlachs (A Romanized people), Albanians (North West). Smaller settlements of Turkish inhabitants came with the advent of Ottoman rule as well as a small percentage of Gypsy Roma who inhabited the area. Come the Slavic migrations, the bulk of the Vardar (FYROM) region’s Slavs were recorded as being ethnic Bulgarians; and as well in the North around Skopje there was an encroaching Serbian influence.

Note* The fact that Slavic Migrations occured over 1000 years after the time of the ancient kingdom of Macedon in the 6th and 7th centuries, is obviously ignored by nationalist revisionist historians, who claim that a Slavonic Macedonian ethnicity has existed for 2000 years as a continuation of the ancient kingdom of Macedon. Nevertheless we will not dwell on that fact as this page is specifically designed to describe the historic origins of F.Y.R.O.M and its ‘Macedonian’ ethnogenosis, an ethnogenosis which occured over a millenia after the first Slavic migrations to the area.


It is a fact that the Slavs of FYROM now have an artificial ‘ethnic Macedonian’ conscience and owe this to various historical and political circumstances. This political turmoil involved the forcefully competing interets in Macedonia of the Russian, Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires as well as the emerging nation states; Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria. The first origins of this ‘Macedonism’ are found in the mid-to-latter stage of the 19th century as an ideology with little influence on the Slavic population of Macedonia initially. The catalyst for ethnogenosis evidently lies with Serbian and counter Bulgarian geopolitics. Not without opposition at home, Serbs propagated the idea of the Serb ethnicity of the Slavs of Macedonia. Their lack of success prompted the Serbs to promote an idea with more appeal to the population and more acceptance by the foreign powers; Macedonism. It was then that the crucial event occured when Belgrade resorted to vigorously promoting the idea of a seperate Macedonian consciousness among the Slavs of Macedonia at the expense of the Bulgarians. Though with alltogether different aims the Bulgarians promoted autonomy of Macedonia and Thrace as a way of gaining the upperhand by eventually incorporating the regions into Bulgaria, in the same way that Bulgaria had already annexed the autonomous Eastern Rumelia region in 1885. At the same times the Bulgarians resisted what they saw as Serbian attempts to de-Bulgarize Macedonia.

In 1822 the Serbian folklorist and linguistic, Vuk Stefanovich Karadjich (1787-1864), published the first work containing grammatical facts about the Bulgarian language. Interestingly Karadjich’s analysis of the Bulgarian language was based on the Macedonian dialects. Prior to formation of the Bulgarian Exarchate in 1870, there was a small, but influential group of Serbians, mainly politicians and some academics, who supported the concept of a “Greater Serbia”. However, this was not the popular view and most Serbians saw Bulgarians as their Slav brothers and foresaw a close future relationship. In 1860, the Serbian Academic Society published Bosnian Croat, Stefan Verkovich’s first volume of “Folk Songs of the Macedonian Bulgarian” awarding him the Serbian “Uceno Druzestvo” (Scholar’s Society), in his preface Verkovich said:


“I call these songs Bulgarian and not Slavic, because if someone today should ask the Macedonian Slav “what are you?” he would be immediately be told: “I am Bulgarian” and would call his language ‘Bulgarian'”

Ilija Garashanin (1812-1874) was a distinguished Serbian statesman and the main architect of Serbian state policy between 1843-1868. In 1844 he published a blueprint, known as “Nachertanije” (Outline), describing future Serbian territorial ambitions. A plan modelled directly on Dushan’s medieval empire – that is including both Macedonia and Old Serbia. But, at the same time Garashanin also encouraged a diplomatic policy of strong support for Bulgarian revolutionary activity against the Turks. Milosh S Milojevich (1840-1897) was the first Serbian to publicly challenge the prevailing consensus concerning the Exarchate’s boundaries and the ethnic composition of the Macedonian territories (The Bulgarian Exarchate was the church body which was granted independence from the Patriarchate in 1870 as spititual head of all Bulgarians). In 1873 Milojevich presented a paper to the Serbian Scholar’s Society which characterised the Slavic population of Macedonia as Serbian – a basic repetition of Garashanin’s beliefs. Milojevich’s thesis was severely criticised by two other Society members, Stoyan Novakovich (1842-1915) and Milan Kujundjich. The latter described Milojevich as:


“..a cheap, mischievous chauvinist, ignominiously condemned by his fellow countrymen for having committed an unfriendly act against a good neighbour.”

The Russo-Turkish war of 1878 had a number of dire consequences for Serbian nationalistic goals. Because of its support for Russia, Turkey closed all Serbian schools within Macedonia. The Treaty of San Stefano in 1878 demonstrated to Serbian politicians that there existed a strong and general acceptance that Macedonia was populated by Bulgarians. Later in 1881 Serbian hopes to annex Bosnia and Herzegovina had to be abandoned, which meant redirecting its quest for an outlet to the Aegean – via Macedonia. These setbacks led Serbia to instigate the Serbo-Bulgarian war of 1885, which ended in its convincing defeat. Thus to accomplish, what it had failed to do militarily, Serbia now pursued two separate tactics to enhance its future claims to Macedonia. The first was based on proving directly that Macedonia was actually populated by Serbs not Bulgarians; the second involved fostering nascent Macedonian separatism (Macedonism) as a counter to Bulgarian influence. While previously Stoyan Novakovich had criticised the chauvinistic policies of individuals like Milojevich, times had changed and now as an eminent Serbian statesman he felt it his duty to support Serbian claims to the Macedonian territories. Therefore initially Novakovich attempted to show that Slavic dialects of Macedonia were not part of the Bulgarian language but actually part of the Serbian language. However because his study was dismissed by noted academics of the period, including Yagich, Miletic, Oblak and Derzhavin, he realised that this strategy could not succeed. Subsequently Novakovich advanced a thesis that in the late 9th century Macedonia had three ethnic Slavic groups – Bulgarian, Serbian and “Slovene” – and that these divisions still persisted and were identifiable in the present population. He outlined his theory in “First Foundations of Slavic Literature Amongst the Balkan Slavs”, a 300 page monograph published in 1893 by the Serbian Academy of Sciences. What Novakovich had produced was a blueprint for “de-Bulgarization” of the Macedonian Slavs by their “Macedonianization”, if direct “Serbianization” could not be readily effected. The intent is explicitly confirmed by Novakovich’s well known (and quoted) dispatch to the Serbian Minister of Education in 1888:


“Since the Bulgarian idea, as it is well known to all, is deeply rooted in Macedonia, I think it is almost impossible to shake it completely by opposing it merely with the Serbian idea. This idea, we fear, would be incapable, as opposition pure and simple, of suppressing the Bulgarian idea. That is why the Serbian idea will need an ally that could stand in direct opposition to the Bulgarianism and would contain in itself the elements which could attract the people and their feelings and thus sever them from Bulgarianism. This ally I see in the Macedonism or to a certain extent in our nursing the Macedonian dialect and Macedonian separatism.”

The Society of St Sava was the chief organ for dissemination of Serbian propaganda on the Macedonian Question and it offered well-paid scholarships to Macedonians in the hope they could ultimately be turned against the Bulgarian idea. Between 1888 and 1889 quite a number of Macedonians accepted these scholarships and went to Belgrade. They soon became aware of the obvious underlying reasons behind the program however, especially when they were forbidden to possess “Bulgarian” literature. Subsequently some 30 to 40 students left Belgrade to continue their education elsewhere, mostly Sofia. However it was during Novakovich’s appointment as consul at St Petersburg that the staunchest and most dogmatic advocate of “Macedonism”, Dimitur Chupovski, arose. Again we note that Chupovski and his small group of followers were directly supported by the St Sava Society and had an almost identical agenda to that of the four Macedonians that met with Novakovich in Belgrade during 1886. It did not matter to Novakovich that “Macedonism” was also essentially anti-Serbian, as long as it opposed or slowed the spread of Bulgarian influence within Macedonia.

Serbian agitations for the encouragement of a seperate Macedonian Slav consciousness continued well up until the Balkan wars through Serbs like Alexander Belic (Belich) and the ethnographer, Jovan Cvijic (Cvijich), who published numerous maps on the subject.

Further indication of the imposition of Macedonism by “outsiders”, and the dubbing of the local Bulgarian dialect as “makedonski” can be found in a letter to Prof. Marin Drinov of May 25, 1888 Kuzman Shapkarev writes:


“But even stranger is the name Macedonians, which was imposed on us only 10 to 15 years ago by outsiders, and not as something by our own intellectuals… Yet the people in Macedonia know nothing of that ancient name, reintroduced today with a cunning aim on the one hand and a stupid one on the other. They know the older word: “Bugari”, although mispronounced: they have even adopted it as peculiarly theirs, inapplicable to other Bulgarians. You can find more about this in the introduction to the booklets I am sending you. They call their own Macedono-Bulgarian dialect the “Bugarski language”, while the rest of the Bulgarian dialects they refer to as the “Shopski language”.

(Makedonski pregled, IX, 2, 1934, p. 55; the original letter is kept in the Marin Drinov Museum in Sofia, and it is available for examination and study)

the original In Bulgarian:

“No pochudno e imeto Makedonci, koeto naskoro, edvay predi 10-15 godini, ni
natrapiha i to otvqn, a ne kakto nyakoi mislyat ot samata nasha
inteligenciya… Narodqt obache v Makedoniya ne znae nishto za tova
arhaichesko, a dnes, s lukava cel ot edna strana, s glupeshka ot druga,
podnoveno prozvishte; toy si znae postaroto: Bugari, makar i nepravilno
proiznasyano, daje osvoyava si go kato sobstveno i preimushtestveno svoe,
nejeli za drugite Bqlgari. Za tova shte vidite i v predgovora na izpratenite
mi knijici. Toy naricha Bugarski ezik svoeto Makaedono-bqlgarsko narechie,
kogato drugite bqlgarski narechiya naricha Shopski.”

In contrast to the Serbian aim of creating a “Macedonian nation consciousness”, the Bulgarians saw advantages in an autonomous Macedonia:


“We talked a long time about the goal of this organization and at last we fixed it on autonomy of Macedonia with the priority of the Bulgarian element. We couldn’t accept the position for “direct joining to Bulgaria” because we saw that it would meet big difficulties by reason of confrontation of the Great powers and the aspirations of the neighbouring small countries and Turkey. It passed through our thoughts that one autonomous Macedonia could easier unite with Bulgaria subsequently and if the worst comes to the worst, that it could play a role as a unificating link of a federation of Balkan people. The region of Adrianople, as far as I remember, didn’t take part in our program, and I think the idea to add it to the autonomous Macedonia came late”

-One of the founders of the IMARO, Dr. Hristo Tatarchev, said in 1893



“I have even met people who believe there is a special race which they call ‘Macedonian’, whose ’cause’ they wish to aid. The truth is, that in a district which has no official frontiers, and never has had any stable ones, there are people of six races, who, as we have seen, all have causes to be considered. ”

“I shall speak only of the part I have stayed in- the districts of Lakes Ochrida and Presba. Here there are Greeks, Slavs, Albanians, and Vlahs. Of Turks, except officials and such of the army as may be quartered on the spot, there are few. The Albanians, I believe, are all Moslem. Should there be any Christians they would be officially classed as Greeks. A large part of the land near Lake Presba is owned by Moslem Albanians as ‘ chiftliks ‘ (farms). “

-Edith Durham, ‘The Burden of the Balkans’ (1905), page 76

By Voulgaroktonos


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