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Bulgaria, Macedonia: Blog Wars Over History

The relations between Bulgaria and Macedonia are no less complex and incomprehensible than those between Greece and Macedonia, although lately the former get less media exposure than the latter. The main problem between Sofia and Skopje is, once again, history.

To Bulgarians, the Macedonians were part of the Bulgarian nation until the beginning of the 20th century, when a large part of Macedonia fell under Serbian domination after the Balkan wars. Then, due to Serbia’s policy in the region and the doctrine of Macedonism, changes in the mindset of the local population occurred, leading to the forming of the Macedonian nation. The Comintern and Stalin’s stance on the issue also contributed to this result.

Macedonians, on the other hand, consider themselves an entirely separate nation, heir to an ancient people. They accuse their Bulgarian neighbours of having been an occupation power in their land and claim that Sofia is trying to appropriate parts of the history of Macedonia, like, for instance, King Samuil, St. Kliment Okhridski, the revolutionary Gotze Delchev, etc.

Bulgarians address similar accusations to Macedonia.

Contention is even further exacerbated by fears on the part of Macedonia that Sofia seeks to “assimilate” the Macedonians, while Bulgarians suspect their neighbours in seeking to annex Pirin region, which is part of the so-called Greater Macedonia.

All these contradictions have spilled over into the virtual space and sparked a permanent “war” over history between Bulgarian and Macedonian bloggers – a war that often exceeds the rules of “bon ton.” And the Bulgarian blogosphere, too, is debating the question of what should be Bulgaria's attitude towards Macedonia.

Blogger Peter Stoykov writes (BUL):

Some arguments about whether Macedonia is or has been part of Bulgaria, whether there exist a Macedonian language, nationality, the Macedonian question, and Bulgarian national interest in Macedonia… Historians, politicians and, most of all, internet morons are competing in speaking nonsense on the issue, as though their lives depend on that.

[…]

Is Macedonia Bulgarian?

No, it is not Bulgarian, it’s Macedonian. And I will tell you why, but I will first look back in time. In 2001, a regular census took place in Australia. Precisely then a Star Wars episode was released and as you know, there are many people crazy about this film. So, in the “Ethnicity” box in the census questionnaire some wisecracks wrote “Jedi”… […] What does this have to do with Macedonia? If Macedonians want to call themselves Macedonians, they have an indisputable right to do so.

[…]

So, what shall we do with the Macedonian question?

As a matter of fact, I am even glad that Macedonia is not part of Bulgaria and that a number of years ago it was torn away from Bulgaria and given over to Yugoslavia. Bulgaria, as our politicians have always been happy to say, “is a focus of stability on the Balkans” – unrest is boiling around us, there were fights and fission in Yugoslavia, Kosovo has been on the table, the Greeks fought with the Turks over Cyprus, Turks are fighting the Kurds, they have even crossed over the border into Iraq, five years ago Albanians made something which was very close to a revolution in Macedonia, fire was exchanged there.

If Macedonia were part of Bulgaria, we would be part of this madness.

Another renowned blogger, Peter Dobrev, responds (BUL):

“Macedonia is the cradle of the Bulgarian national spirit. And even if it is to become its grave, we will never give up the fight for its liberation.” This was the title with which the then large-circulation Outro newspaper appeared on the eve of the Balkan war. This used to be the dominant opinion until 1944 (when the communists took the power in Bulgaria). Today, however, regardless of the fact that Bulgaria in theory should have left the ideological constructs of totalitarianism, the memory of Macedonia has faded so much that it turns into polar extremes.

[…]

No wonder then that blogger Peter Stoykov thinks that there is no Macedonian question, that Macedonia is Macedonian, and whoever says the opposite is “an internet moron.”

[…]

Everybody has a God-given right of self-determination – as a Jedi, Eskimo or Macedonian. When, however, it’s a matter of general national significance, of causes that have cost the lives of thousands and matters that have changed the fate of a half of a people, it’s good to speak with a little understanding and knowledge. It’s necessary to separate personal opinion from the objective historical fact…

[…]

Just as everybody knows today that Alexander the Great was a Greek, so it is indisputable that all leaders of the Macedonian organisations after 1878 (the year of the Berlin congress and the subsequent liberation/emancipation of Bulgaria) were Bulgarians. These leaders, as well as the people as a whole, have always spoken of themselves as Bulgarians, and they have been seen as such by the foreign observers. All foreign observers, even the Serbian ones.

These two opinions sum up the main social attitudes in relation to Macedonia. The majority of Bulgarians have no claims to its neighbour, nor do they want to interfere in its domestic affairs, but many are irritated by the Macedonian blackmail to give up a part of their history and want the historic truth established. Similar voices are heard in Macedonia.

In the thick of one of the battles between Bulgarian and Macedonian bloggers, Macedonian blogger Ivica Anteski wrote in his ANTIblog (MKD):

If the Bulgarian and the Macedonian “truths” do not coincide, this means that they are not true (or at least one of them). Simple logic. And in court, when two eyewitnesses make contradicting testimonies, the case is solved by means of a confrontation. But historians don’t want to confront each other. It’s more likely that we, bloggers, slaughter ourselves first on the internet, than see the experts surpass the contentions through the power of arguments.

[…]

Scholars, historians, philologists, academics, Slavic studies experts (Macedonian and Bulgarian)!!! Sit down together and tell us where the problem is. Reach an understanding! Forget that you are Macedonian or Bulgarian – scholars have no nationality. The truth and the facts are their nationality. Clear out the problems.

In such an atmosphere, on March 31, several days before the NATO summit in Bucharest, Sofia-based Manfred Woerner Foundation and the Atlantic Club of Bulgaria introduced a brochure titled “Bulgarian Policies on the Republic of Macedonia,” which was written by a group of Bulgarian history, Balkan studies and diplomacy scholars.

Bulgarian policies on the Republic of Macedonia
Image: komitata.blogspot.com (CC 3.0)

The purpose of the publication is to be used in the process of defining Bulgaria's Macedonia-related policies. Blogger Konstantin Pavlov, who attended the presentation, published the following report (BUL):

The Republic of Macedonia is about to join the EU and NATO. When exactly this will happen is not clear yet. The problem lies in the fact that, on the basis of the argument between Greece and Macedonia, the majority of independent politicians and observers take the side of Macedonia, without giving it much thought. (David against Goliath). And although the argument over the name elicits sympathy for Macedonia, the arguments that are being used – ancient Macedonia, that has survived down to the present day, the “autochtonal” Macedonian population, having been “enslaved” and “assimilated” by its bad neighbours, including the “bad Bulgarians,” gains ground with the people who sympathize with Macedonia. Those sympathies might lead to extremely negative consequences for Bulgaria, like, for example, “giving up” [May 24 as a national holiday] […]. It seems the book on the subject is not bad (I had no nerve to read it) and, unfortunately, is written in a complex, pseudo-scientific language with the purposes not all too clear. The result is nearly contrary to the objective sought – to write a clear, concise and unequivocally logical (right, winning) policy of the Bulgarian state towards the challenges coming from Macedonia. Well, it has not been achieved very well.

Having read the book and Pavlov’s report, Macedonian blogger Volan wrote (MKD):

The desire of Bulgarian politics – one people – two nations – is clearly discernible…

It is clear that the problems between Skopje and Sofia cannot be solved until the Balkan approach to history as property is not given up, and as long as it is being divided to “mine” and “yours” – in this case, into “Macedonian” and “Bulgarian.”

50 comments

  • TapTop

    These slavo fyromians consider as a shame the fact that they are bulgars or what?

  • Yes, you can put it that way, although this way of expressing it is quite politically incorrect. And they think of themselves as heirs of Alexander The Great, not of some Slavic-Protobulgar folk. Although hard evidence points just this way.

  • peter givens

    If the Bulgarians and or the Greeks think Macedonia belongs to them, why than they dont fight over it?Each of you claim Macedonia is Bulgarian,Greek or even Albanian.I am proud being wanted, ufortunatly it is not yours. It belongs to the Macedonians for over four thousand years. The big Powers on August 2 1913 in Bucharest Macedonia was handed to you .Greece, Bulgaria and Albania denie they have a sizable Macedonian population. Goce Delcev, Jane Sandanski, Nikola Karev, Pitu Guli, they are our HEROES not yours.The Republic of Macedonia belongs to the Macedonians not to you. I am proud Macedonian. Born Macedonian, will dye Macedonian.

  • I find it amazing that after all this time there are still issues with this rift between ethnic groups. When do we humans learn to live alongside in peace?

  • Destro

    Foreign Relations Vol. VIII, 868.014 / 26 Dec. 1944

    “The Department has noted increasing propaganda rumors and semi-official statements in favor of an autonomous Macedonia, emanating principally from Bulgaria, but also from Yugoslav Partisan and other sources, with the implication that Greek territory would be included in the projected state. This Government (of USA) considers talk of Macedonian “nation”, Macedonian “Fatherland”, or Macedonian “national consciousness” to be unjustified demagoguery representing no ethnic, nor political reality, and sees in its present revival a possible cloak for aggressive intentions against Greece. The approved policy of this Government is to oppose any revival of the Macedonian issue as related to Greece. The Greek section of Macedonia is largely inhabited by Greeks, and the Greek people are almost unanimously opposed to the creation of a Macedonian state. Allegations of serious Greek participation in any such agitation can be assumed to be false. This Government (of USA) would regard as responsible any Government or group of Governments tolerating or encouraging menacing or aggressive acts of “Macedonian forces” against Greece”.

    U.S. Secretary of State Stettinius

  • It is absolutely amazing that the Macedonians never listen to what people say about them. Even the most moderated, refined, sophisticated opinions. The claims of the neighbours exist only in the heads of those poor people.

    Nobody wants your land, folks. Nobody wants you to change your self-determination. But, please, give the same right of self-determination to the heroes from history. Give them the right to be what they had proclaimed themselves, and don’t be so aggressive all the time. Give Alexander The Great and Gotze Delchev the right to be what they had proclaimed themselves, and not what you dream about them.

    And then you will have perfect relationships with your neighbours.

  • I would like to mention two more things in connection with this ongoing argument:

    First, on the Macedonian blog portal there is a posting, 2 years old, with more than 7700 comments over the course of the years. The participants must be already good friends, or at least good enemies, since they have spent two years of their lives commenting here (The topic is ‘Who Are The Bulgarians?’ )

    http://makedonskaistorija.blog.com.mk/node/5734?from=7700&comments_per_page=100 (in Macedonian)

    And second, some of the more moderate bloggers in Macedonia(Teddy Bear Ushko is the pioneer), supported by most of the Bulgarian bloggers who are interested in Macedonia, have started an initiative to end this endless bickering, called

    “With literature against the Balkan provintialism”

    which generally means getting the Macedonian bloggers acquainted with real Bulgarian literature

    You can find the first posting here:

    http://mecetousko.blog.com.mk/node/145143 (in Macedonian)

    Similar initiative exists in Bulgaria, here:

    http://lozarivinari.blogspot.com (in Bulgarian)

  • MKD

    Bulgarians, please embrace your Tatarstan roots and leave Macedonian history alone.

  • peter givens

    Here is a short history; Demosthenes said about Philip 2; not only no Greek, nor related to the Greeks, but not even a barbarian from any place that can be named with honours, but a pestilent knave from Macedonia, whence it was never yet possible to buy a decent slave” The Macedonian “barbarian”defeated Greece at the battle of Chaeronea in August 338BC.and ap[ointed himself “Commanderof the Greeks”The date is commonly taken as the end of Greek history and the beginning of the Macedonian era.Greece regained its indeprndece in 1827AD.Became a nation in 1832.In 454BC the Philhellene did not wanted to compeate in the Olympic games with the Macedonians.Greece must rid of their falsified history and re-write ther own they will be better off.

  • Hellenic Headbreaker

    Peter Givens (nice pseudo-English name to try to gain credibility by the way)- how foolish are you?! Demosthenes was a rabid pro-Athenian and much like his contemporaries viewed non-Athenian Hellenic peoples as “barbarians”; hence why Macedonians were regarded as “barbarians”; the fact that Demosthenes disparages Phillip by no means diminishes his Hellenism lest we forget that Hellas at the time was composed of city-states and Athens regarded itself as the pinnacle of Hellenism and objected to the “backward” northern Hellenes who were comparatively behind their southern Hellenic counterparts on a cultural basis at least. By the way, do you even know what the names Phillip and Alexander mean? A true Macedonian does-all 3 million of us.

    How about you stop falsifying history and not pick and choose whatever suits you and your felllow pretenders’ interests- that’s very bad etiquette and only shows how sneaky you all are- and show us your citations by the way so they may be scrutinised: any academic worth their salt can do that as you will see below.

    Also, why on earth would the ancestors of Phillip II etc. declare their Hellenism etc. and be Slavic? And furthermore, why would a race of people promote the culture of a supposedly “conquered” one?- that sounds pretty stupid. Also, by your logic, by extension, the Arkadians, the Thessalians, the Epirotes, the Spartans etc. are also non-Hellenic- a very stupid argument as these names refer to their place of origin and not ethnicity- the Macedonians are exactly the same, Hellenes from the northern Hellenic province of Macedonia. It would help if you actually read history properly and me having a heart the size of Phar Lap (a famous race horse) am going to get you of your ignorant state.

    For your reading pleasure:

    Αυτός τε γαρ Έλλην ειμί γένος τωρχαίον.
    I am myself a Greek by ancient descent.
    Alexander I of Macedonia (ancestor of Phillip II and Alexander the Great),in Herodotus’ book Kalliopi,IX,45.

    If it were not my purpose to combine barbarian things with things Hellenic, to traverse and civilize every continent, to search out the uttermost parts of land and sea, to push the bounds of Macedonia to the farthest Ocean, and to diseminate and shower the blessings of the Hellenic justice and peace over every nation, I should not be content to sit quietly in the luxury of idle power, but I should emulate the frugality of Diogenes. But as things are, forgive me Diogenes, that I imitate Herakles, and emulate Perseus, and follow in the footsteps of Dionysos, the divine author and progenitor of my family, and desire that victorius Hellenes should dance again in India and revive the memory of the Bacchic revels among the savage mountain tribes beyond the Kaukasos…
    As quoted in “On the Fortune of Alexander” by Plutarch, 332 a-b (and on that note, seeing as Alexander makes mention to these Ancient Hellenic figures,by extension then Heracles, Dionysos, Perseus and so on were Slavs too by your logic- give us a break.)

    Our enemies are Medes and Persians, men who for centuries have lived soft and luxurious lives; we of Macedon for generations past have been trained in the hard school of danger and war. Above all, we are free men, and they are slaves. There are Greek troops, to be sure, in Persian service — but how different is their cause from ours! They will be fighting for pay — and not much of at that; we, on the contrary, shall fight for Greece, and our hearts will be in it.
    Alexander the Great addressing his troops prior to the Battle of Issus, as quoted in Anabasis Alexandri by Arrian Book II, 7

    Youths of the Pellaians and of the Macedonians and of the Hellenic Amphictiony and of the Lakedaimonians and of the Corinthians… and of all the Hellenic peoples, join your fellow-soldiers and entrust yourselves to me, so that we can move against the barbarians and liberate ourselves from the Persian bondage, for as Greeks we should not be slaves to barbarians.
    As quoted in the Historia Alexandri Magni of Pseudo-Kallisthenes, 1.15.1-4

    Now you fear punishment and beg for your lives, so I will let you free, if not for any other reason so that you can see the difference between a Greek king and a barbarian tyrant, so do not expect to suffer any harm from me. A king does not kill messengers.
    As quoted in the Historia Alexandri Magni of Pseudo-Kallisthenes, 1.37.9-13

    Ahem, I think I have proven my point- nice try though; you need a false identity so you’d though you’d steal mine- as the late, great Charles Bronson would say, “No Dice”.

    STOP THE FALSEHOODS AND THE SPREAD OF MISINFORMATION!!!
    TO BE MACEDONIAN IS TO BE HELLENIC!

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