history of macedonia blog

Concise Macedonia

Ancient Macedonia

Roman Macedonia

Ottoman Macedonia

Partitioned Macedonia

Independent Macedonia

Macedonian-Greek Conflict

Macedonian Minorities

Macedonian Symbols

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Short history of Macedonia


Although Macedonia is a young state which became independent in 1991, its roots run deep in the history. The name "Macedonia" is in fact the oldest surviving name of a country in the continent of Europe. Archaeological evidence shows that old European civilization flourished in Macedonia between 7000 and 3500 BC. Macedonia is located in the center of the Southern Balkans, north of ancient Greece, east of Illyria, and west of Thrace. The ancient Macedonians were a distinct nation, ethnically, linguistically, and culturally different from their neighbors. The origins of the Macedonians are in the ancient Brygian substratum which occupied the whole of Macedonian territory and in Indo-European superstratum, which settled here at the end of the 2nd millennium.


Ancient Macedonia

The history of the ancient Macedonian kingdom begins with Caranus, who was the first known king (808-778 BC). The Macedonian dynasty Argeadae originated from Argos Orestikon, a city in located in south western Macedonia region of Orestis (App.,Syr., 63;Diod. ,VII, 15; G. Sync., I, 373). Alexander I "Philhellene" (498-454 BC) expended the kingdom and by the 5th century BC the Macedonians had forged a unified kingdom. Alexander was a Persian ally in the Greek-Persian wars. As Macedonia appears on the international scene, the first coins with the king's name on them are made. Around the year 460, Herodotus sojourns in Macedonia and gives an interpretatio macedonica of the Greek-Persian wars (Her.5.17-22, 9.44-45).

Alexander’s son Perdiccas II (453 - 413 BC) worked on starting a war between the Athens maritime power and Sparta which lead the Peloponnesian League (Thucydides.Pel.I.57) and initiated the creation of an Olynthian league from the Greek colonies neighboring Macedonia on Chalcidice, for a war against Athens (Thucyd.I.58). During the Peloponnesian War, Perdiccas is one moment on the side of Athens and the next on the side of Sparta, depending of Macedonia’s best interests, not wanting either of them to become too powerful, while keeping its country’s sovereignty at the expense of the Greek quarrel.

It was Archelaus (413-399 BC) who made Macedonia a significant economic power. Archelaus made straight roads, built fortresses, and reorganized the Macedonian army (Thucyd.II.100). He moved the Macedonian capital Aigae to Pella and founded Macedonian Olympian Games in Dion (the holy city of the Macedonians), among other reasons also because of the fact that the Greek Olympic Games were forbidden to the barbarians, including the Macedonians as well (Her.V.22). In the year 406 the Macedonian poet Adaius wrote an epitaph for the grave stone of Euripides (Anth.Pal.7,5,1; A. Gellius, Noct. Att, XV, 20, 10) who was staying in the Macedonian palace of Archelaus. Euripides besides the apologetic work "Archelaus" also wrote the well known play "Bachae" inspired by the Macedonian cult for the God Dionysus. The Macedonian council refused to give Euripides' body to his birthplace Athens (Gell.Noct.Att.XV.20). During the years 407/6 Archelaus from Athens received the titles proxenos and euergetes.

Amyntas III reigned 393-370/369 BC and led a policy of exhausting and weakening of the Greek city states. His two of his sons, Alexander II and Perdiccas III, reigned later only briefly. Alexander II however, had an expansionist policy and invaded northern Greece. In Thessaly he left Macedonian garrisons in the cities and refused to evacuate them. The Thebans who were at the time the most powerful militarily intervened and force the removal of the garrisons. Alexander II's youngest brother Philip was taken as hostage to Thebes. After the death of Alexander II, his other brother Perdiccas III took the throne. But Perdiccas III was killed with 4,000 of his Macedonian soldiers in a battle with the Illyrians, and Amyntas' third son, Philip II now became the next Macedonian king.

Philip II (359-336 BC) the greatest man that Europe had ever given (Theop.F.GR.H. f, 27) liberated and unified Macedonia and turned it into the first European Power in the modern sense of the word - an armed nation with a common national ideal. He subdued all of Macedonia's neighbors (Illyrians, Thracians, and Greeks), and made Macedonia the most powerful kingdom in the Balkans. He was especially brutal towards the Greek cities at the edge of Macedonia. He razed them all to the ground, including the major Greek center of Olynthus, and Stageira, Aristotle's birthplace, and sold the inhabitants to slavery. In 338, the Greeks unified to prevent Philip from penetrating southern Greece, but the Macedonians defeated the Greeks at the battle at Chaeronea. Philip became a hegemon to the Greeks who had no choice but to ratify his peace agreement koine eirene. The Greeks had to swear that they would obey the conditions and that they will not rebel, not only against Philip, but also against his successors as well. The four Macedonian stratigical garrisons at Corinth, the Theban Cadmeia, Chalcis on Euboea and Ambracia, were a guarantee the Macedonian hold of Greece. This mutual peace - koine eirene dictated by the conqueror, was not a league at all (it did not have the word symachia), but a fiction which was to disguise Macedonian dominance in Greece, a temporary institution for including the Greek polis in the monarchy much more easily. But the conqueror of Greece was assassinated before he could lead the Macedonians in the conquest of the Persian Empire during the wedding celebrations of his daughter Cleopatra.

His son Alexander III the Great (356-323 BC), succeeded his father at the age of 20, and immediately put down the rebellions of the Thracians, Illyrians, and Greeks, who revolted upon hearing of Philip's death. In Greece, he razed the major center of Thebes to the ground after a slaughter of 6,000 people and sold its 30,000 inhabitants to slavery, as warning to the Greek what would happen if they were to rebel again. Next, at the head of Macedonian and allied Greek, Illyrian, and Thracian troops, he invaded Persia. The Greek soldiers did not participate in any of the battles because they were hostages for peace and a guarantee for safety of the Macedonian occupation forces in Greece. Not only did they not have an important role in any of the battles but there were no Greek commanders either since the Macedonians commanded their ranks. Alexander's victories at Granicus, Issus, and Gaugamela put an end to the Persian Empire, which was then replaced by the Macedonian Empire stretching between Europe, Egypt and India. From this time until the arrival of Rome, the Macedonians will shape the events in this vast space for almost 3 centuries.

Alexander's death brought the Macedonian leading generals into a terrible conflict over the rule of the Empire. But first, the rebellions of the Greeks were put down with the massacres of the 23,000 Greek mercenaries in Asia (Diodorus, 18.7.3-9), and the bloody end of the Lamian (Hellenic) War in which the united Greeks failed to win freedom yet again (Diodorus, 18.10.1-3, 11, 12, 15, 17.5). By 300 BC, the Macedonian Empire was carved up between the dynasties of Antigonus I "One-Eye" (Macedonia and Greece), Ptolemy I (Egypt), and Seleucus I (Asia). Under Antigonus II Gonatas (276-239), the grandson of Antigonus I, Macedonia achieved a stable monarchy and strengthened its occupation of Greece. His grandson Philip V (222-179 BC), clashed with Rome which was now expanding eastwards, and fought the two "Macedonian Wars" against the Romans. After the Roman army defeated Philip in Thessaly, Macedonia lost the whole of Greece and was reduced to its original borders. In the third "Macedonian War", Rome finally defeated the Macedonian army under the last king the Philip's son Perseus (179-168 BC) and at the Battle of Pydna, 20,000 Macedonian soldiers died while defending their land. Perseus died prisoner in Italy, the Macedonian kingdom ceased to exist, and by 146 Macedonia became a Roman province.

By 65 BC Rome conquered the Seleucid Macedonian kingdom in Asia under its last king Antiochus VII. Finally, the defeat of Cleopatra VII in 30 BC, brought an end to the last of the Macedonian descendants in Egypt, and with it, the last remains of the Macedonian Empire that was once the mightiest in the world disappeared from the face of the earth.


Roman Macedonia

In 51 AD for the first time on European soil, in the Macedonian towns Philippi, Thessalonica and Beroea, the Apostle Paul preached Christianity (Acta apos., XVI, id. XVII). In 52 and 53 he sent epistles to the people of Thessalonica (Epist. Thess); in 57 he came to Macedonia again, and in 63 he sent epistles to the people of Philippi (Epist. Philipp). During the 3rd and 4th centuriesbecause of the Gothic attacks the Macedonian towns built fortresses around them, Macedonia was divided into two provinces, Macedonia Prima and Macedonia Salutarus.

Since the east-west split of the Roman Empire in 395 AD, Macedonia was ruled by the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantine Empire). It is interesting to note that the Emperor Justinian was born in Skopje, Macedonia. In the 5th century Macedonia was divided again into Macedonia Prima and Macedonia Secunda. In the 6th century, an earthquake demolished Scupi (nowadays Skopje) and Slavs overrun both Macedonia and Greece and mixed with the ancient Macedonians and Greeks. Thus the foundations for the modern Macedonian and Greek nations were laid. In the 7th century the Turko-Mongolic Bulgars entered the Balkan Peninsula and populated Thrace. In time they mixed with the Slavs and ancient Thracians who already lived there and laid the foundations of the modern Bulgarian nation.

In the 9th century, while the Byzantine Empire was ruled by the Macedonians Emperors of the Macedonian Dynasty, the Macedonian brothers Cyril and Methodius from the largest Macedonian city of Salonica, created the first Slavonic alphabet, founded the Slavic literacy, and promoted Christianity among the Slavic peoples. Their disciples Kliment and Naum of Ohrid established the first Slavonic University, the Ohrid Literary School. 3,500 teachers, clergy, writers, and other literary figures emerged from this Ohrid Literary School. Their activity was crowned with the laying of foundations of a Slavonic cultural, educational and ecclesiastical Organization, where the Slavonic alphabet was used and the Old Slavonic language was introduced in religious services. The establishment of the first Slavic bishopric, later to become an Ohrid Archbishopric during the reign of Samuel, marked the beginning of the Macedonian Orthodox Church.


Basil II the Macedonian  Tsar Samuel

In the first half of the 10th century, the Bogomil teaching appeared in Macedonia. Bogomilism had grown into a large-scale popular movement and it spread through the Balkans and Europe. The 10th century also marked the beginning of the first Macedonian Slavic State, the Kingdom of Tsar Samuel (976-1014). Towards the end of the 10th century, with the weakening of the Eastern Roman Empire, and with the first Bulgarian Empire apart, Tsar Samuel created a strong Macedonian medieval kingdom with its center at Ohrid. Soon he conquered parts of Greece, Epirus, a large part of Bulgaria, Albania, Serbia, Bosnia, Montenegro and Dalmacia. This was not a Bulgarian state, but an independent Macedonian State with a capital in Ohrid, Macedonia, not in Preslav, Bulgaria where the Bulgarian kings ruled. Samuel was defeated in 1014 by Basil II the Macedonian when the Byzantine army won the battle on Mount Belasica capturing 15,000 of his soldiers. All were blinded, except one in every one hundred, who were left with one eye to lead the rest back to Samuel who escaped death at Belasica. At the site Samuel suffered a stroke and died two days later on October 6, 1014.

For four centuries after the fall of the kingdom, rebellions and frequent changes of rule disrupted Macedonia's development. In the 11th century, there were two major uprisings against Byzantine rule, one led by Petar Deljan in 1040, Samuel's grandson, and the other by Gjorgji Vojteh in 1072. The 12th century saw the rise of the Macedonian feudal lords Dobromir Hrs in 1201, and Strez in 1211.


Ottoman Macedonia

Despite the rebellions, and the short-lived Serbian and Bulgarian occupations in the 13th and 14th centuries, Macedonia remained a Byzantine territory until the Ottoman Turks conquered it in 1389. The Turks firmly established themselves not only in Macedonia, but in all of the Southern Balkans. Ottoman rule will last for five centuries. The first significant resistance movements against the Turkish occupation were the Mariovo-Prilep Rebellion (1564 - 1565), and the Karposh Uprising in 1689.In the 18th century, under the pressure of the Greek Patriarch in Istanbul, the Turks abolished the Ohrid Archbishopric, which had been keeping alive the spiritual soul of the Macedonians for centuries since the times of Tsar Samuel.

 In the 19th century, Greece, Serbia, and Bulgaria freed themselves from the Turkish rule and actively become conspiring against the Macedonians displaying territorial aspirations on their land. These indigenous states all became in different ways stalking horses for the aspirations of the European Great Powers. The so-called "Macedonian Question" appeared which is nothing else but a competition for a new conquest of Macedonia by their neighbors. The Greeks, Bulgarians, and Serbs employed many weapons in this conflict. They included the opening of schools in an attempt to inculcate a particular linguistic and confessional identity, the control of ecclesiastical office, influence over the course of railway building, diplomatic attempts to secure the ear of the Turkish Sultan. The Greeks and the Bulgarians begun sending guerrilla bands into Macedonia to and use terror to "convince" the population of its "true identity". But the Macedonians strove to develop their own national consciousness and begun organizing themselves for fight against the Turks at the same time, a process that their neighbors tried everything to interrupt. Thus, the nineteenth century is a period of growing national awareness among the Macedonian people and their quest for free and independent Macedonia.


The Independence Movement


Literacy and education flourished and the foundations of modern Macedonian literature were laid. The leading activists were Kiril Pejchinovich, Joakim Krchovski, Partenija Zografski, Georgija Puleski, Jordan Hadzi Konstantinov - Dzinot, Dimitar and Konstantin Miladinov, Grigor Prlicev, and Kuzman Sapkarev. The second half of the nineteenth century was marked by the beginning of the national revolutionary struggle for the liberation of Macedonia. The Razlovtsi and Kresna Uprisings, in 1876 and 1878 respectively, had a strong influence on the growth of Macedonian national awareness. Bishop Theodosius of Skopje started a campaign for an independent Macedonian Orthodox Church and tried to restore the Ohrid Archbishopric, which had been abolished in 1767. The Bulgarians effectively destroyed the idea. In 1893, the Macedonian revolutionary organization known as VMRO (Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization) was founded in the greatest Macedonian city of Salonica, with Gotse Delchev as its leader. Its objectives were national freedom and the establishment of an autonomous Macedonian state with the slogan "Macedonia for the Macedonians". Delchev's famous words were "I understand the world as a field for cultural competition among the nations" and "Those who believe that answer of our national liberation lies in Bulgaria, Serbia or Greece might consider themselves a good Bulgarian, good Serb or a good Greek, but not a good Macedonian." In 1903 a group of Macedonian revolutionaries known as "Gemidzii" carried out a series of attacks on a number of buildings in Salonica in order to draw the attention of the European public towards the situation of the Macedonian people. Later on August 2, 1903, VMRO launched the Ilinden Uprising against the Turks and declared Macedonian independence. The revolutionaries liberated the town of Krushevo, and established the Republic of Krushevo with its own government. The uprising was brutally crushed by the Turks, but the Macedonian Question thereafter aroused intense international concern. The Great Powers made several attempts to impose reform on the Porte, including the sending of their own officers to supervise the gendarmerie - in effect, the first international peacekeeping force. And although the revolt was suppressed, Macedonians remember the brief victory as a key date in the country's history and the event is enshrined in Macedonia's constitution. In the same year, 1903, Krste Misirkov from Pella (Postol), one of the most outstanding names in the history of Macedonian culture, and the founder of the modern Macedonian literary language and orthography, published his "On Macedonian Matters", in which he projected the principles for standardization of the Macedonian literary language.


The Partition of Macedonia and World War I

In 1908 the Young Turk revolution. The Young Turk movement, lead by the Young Turk Committee, had the aim of reforming the Turkish country and making social and political reforms in Macedonia. The Macedonian revolutionary organization, through Jane Sandanski and the newly formed national federal party, actively took part in the Young Turk movement for achieving autonomy for Macedonia.

In 1912, Greece, Serbia, and Bulgaria joined forces and defeated the Turkish army in Macedonia. 100,000 Macedonians also participated and helped in the Turkish evacuation but the victors did not reward them. The Treaty of London (May 1913), which concluded the First Balkan War, left Bulgaria dissatisfied with the partition of Macedonia among the allies which resulted after the war. Bulgaria's attempt to enforce a new partition in a Second Balkan War failed, and the Treaty of Bucharest (August 1913) confirmed a pattern of boundaries that (with small variations) has remained in force ever since.

Macedonia within Turkey before 1912 and its partition in 1913 among Greece, Serbia, Bulgaria, and Albania

Having failed to achieve independence in 1903, the Macedonians, now divided, were left to their new masters. Greece tookthe biggest, southern half of Macedonia (Aegean Macedonia) and renamed it to "Northern Greece"; Bulgaria annexed the Pirin region and abolished the Macedonian name, and Serbia took over the Vardar region and renamed it to "Southern Serbia". N. Pasich of Serbia and E. Venizelos of Greece agreed on the newly formed Greek-Serbian border, so that there would be "only Serbs to the North and only Greeks to the South", and no "Macedonians" on either side. Thus the politics of assimilation had begun, as Macedonia's geographic, natural and ethnic unity was distroyed by its own neighbors. An intensive campaigning took place in all three parts of Macedonia to impose foreign identities upon the population that suited the interests of the controlling states. In Vardar Macedonia, the Serbs labeled the Macedonians with the name "South Serbs"; in Aegean Macedonia, the Greeks labeled them as "Slavophone Greeks", "MakedoSlavs", and other insulting names; while in Pirin Macedonia, the Macedonians were simply called Bulgarians.

In 1914, World War I erupted. Bulgaria sided with the Central powers and by 1915 it occupied the Serbian held part of Macedonia. But the defeat of the Central powers and the end of World War I in 1918 saw the partition of 1913 reconfirmed and Macedonia was left divided. At the Paris Peace conference the demands of the Macedonians for independent and united Macedonia were ignored. Vardar Macedonia was re-incorporated with the rest of Serbia and into the new Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes which was later renamed Yugoslavia.


World War II and Liberation

Since 1913, official Greece has been trying to banish native Macedonian names of villages, towns, cities, rivers, and lakes in Aegean Macedonia. For example, the little stream which issues from Mount Olympus and flows into the Aegean Sea is labeled Mavroneri("black water") on the maps made by Greek cartographers after 1913. However, the same river appears as Crna Reka, a native Macedonian name meaning "black river" on the maps made before 1913. Kutlesh had been dropped for Vergina, and Kukush for Kilkis, together with at least 300 other places all over Aegean Macedonia. The Macedonians were also forced to renounce their native family names and use only new "Greek-sounding" names. In 1995, Human Rights Watch - Helsinki was a witness that even today the Macedonians are forbidden to carry their first and last Macedonian names. During the dictatorship of General Metaxis, the Macedonians were exposed to brutal oppression. The Macedonian language was forbidden, despite the fact under the supervision of the League of Nations Greece had recognized its existence as distinct language when it published the primer "Abecedar" for the needs of the Macedonian children in 1924. In the 1930's the Macedonians in Greece were punished for speaking of their native language by drinking of castor oil and were persecuted for expressing of their national identity. Yet despite the triple persecution the Macedonians never abandoned their nationality.

The period between the two world wars was also filled with constant endeavors to change the situation of Macedonia and annul the division of the country and its people. In 1925 VMRO (United) was founded in Vienna under the leadership of Dimitar Vlahov, Pavel Satev, Georgi Zankov, Rizo Rizov, Vladimir Pop Timov and Hristo Jankov. Their main objective was to free Macedonia within its geographical and economical borders and create an independent political unit that will become an equal member of the future Balkan Federation. In 1935, MANAPO (Macedonian National Movement) was founded in the Vardar part of Macedonia. In 1938The first collection of poems "Fire" ("Ogin") from Venko Markovski was published in Macedonian. In 1939 publication of "White Dawns" ("Beli Mugri"), a collection of poems in Macedonian from the first modern Macedonian poet Koco Racin. In 1940, the democratic groups in Macedonia defined the political program for the national and social liberation of the country.

With the World War II burning throughout Europe, Yugoslavia was invaded by the German army in April of 1941. Bulgaria, now fascist, again occupied almost all of Macedonia (both Vardar and Aegean) and collaborated with the Nazis for the departure of the Jews of Salonica to their deaths. On October 11, 1941, the Macedonians launched a war for the liberation of Macedonia from the Bulgarian occupation. By 1943, the anti-fascist sentiment lent support for the growing communist movement and soon thereafter, the Communist Party of Macedonia was established. In the same year, the first unit of the Army of Macedonia was founded. Bodies of government, such as national liberation councils, were formed over the whole territory of Macedonia. The Headquarters of the National Liberation Army (NOV) published the manifesto of the goals of the war of liberation. The first session of the Anti-Fascist Assembly of the National Liberation of Macedonia (ASNOM) was held in the monastery of St. Prohor Pchinski on 2 August 1944 on the 41st anniversary of the Ilinden uprising. Representatives from all parts of Macedonia, including the Pirin and the Aegean parts of the country, gathered for the occasion and decided on the constitution of a modern Macedonian state as a member of the new Yugoslav federation under the name of Peoples Republic of Macedonia. The ASNOM presidium was formed with Metodija Andonov Cento was its first President and decision was reached to constitute a modern Macedonian country that will become part of the new Federal Yugoslavia. On April 1945 the first Macedonian government was founded with Lazar Kolisevski as its first President. The Ohrid Archbishopric was restored in 1958, and its autocephaly was declared in 1967. The Macedonians were finally free in one of the three parts of Macedonia.


The Greek Civil War and the Macedonians in Greece (Aegean Macedonia)

In Greece, after the Varkisa agreement (December 1945), the use of the Macedonian name and the Macedonian language were once again prohibited in the Aegean part of Macedonia and the Greek authorities started applying terror against the Macedonians. In the period of 1945-46 alone, according to statistics: 400 murders were registered; 440 women and girls were raped; 13,529 interned on the Greek islands; 8,145 imprisoned in the Greek prisons; 4,209 indicted; 3,215 sentenced to prison; 13 driven mad by the torture in the prisons; 45 villages abandoned; 80 villages pillaged; 1,605 families plundered; and 1,943 families evicted.

Therefore, during the Greek Civil War that followed World War II (1946-1949), the Macedonians of Aegean Macedonia fought on the side of the Greek Communist Party (KKE) simply because it promised them their rights after the war.Out of the 35,000 soldiers of DAG, about half were Macedonians. The liberated territory, covering mainly the territory of Aegean Macedonia. 87 Macedonian schools were opened for 100,000 pupils, the newspapers in Macedonian were published ("Nepokoren", "Zora", "Edinstvo", "Borec"), and cultural and artistic associations were created. But after two years of KKE's success in the civil war, the United States decided to side up against them, afraid that Greece would become another communist country. With the military support that came from the United States and Great Britain, the communists lost the war, and the Macedonians once again were stripped of their human rights.

The defeat of DAG resulted in terrible consequences for the Macedonians. 28,000 Aegean Macedonian children, known as 'child refugees', were separated from their families and settled in eastern Europe and Soviet Union in an attempt to save them from the terror that followed. Thousands of Macedonians lost their lives for the liberty of their people and a great number of the Macedonian villages were burned to the ground jut like the Greek army burned Kukush and the surrounding villages in the Balkan Wars.

In the late 1950's the inhabitants of several villages in the districts of Florina (Lerin), Kastoria (Kostur), and Edessa (Voden) were forced to take oaths in which they swore never again to speak "the local Slavic idiom," but to speak only Greek instead. Yet, the policy on denationalization continued to meet resistance among the Macedonians. The Macedonian language continued to be spoken in everyday communication and folklore as an expression of the Macedonian national affiliation. "The Macedonian Movement for Balkan Prosperity" withits main office in Salonica was founded, and "Rainbow" and some other organizations have been asking the international factors and the Greek government for legalization of the national and political rights of the Macedonians in Greece.


The Macedonians in Bulgaria (Pirin Macedonia)

The political changes after the capitulation of fascist Bulgaria and the coup d'etat of September 9, 1944 positively influenced the historical status of the Macedonians from the Pirin part of Macedonia. The Communist Party of Bulgaria, under the leadership of Geogi Dimitrov on August 9, 1946 officially recognized the Macedonian nation and the right of the Pirin part of Macedonia to be attached to the People’s Republic of Macedonia. The Macedonians in Bulgaria exist as separate nationality on all Bulgarian censuses after the end of World War II. The demography data from 1946 revealed that the majority of the population in the Pirin part of Macedonia declared itself as Macedonian in a free census. A period of cultural autonomy and affirmation of the Macedonian national and cultural values had begun. The Macedonian literary language and the national history have been introduced into the educational process. Almost 32,000 pupils were included into the teaching of Macedonian. In 1947 in Gorna Djumaja (Blagoevgrad nowadays) the first Macedonian bookstore and reading room were opened, as well as the Regional Macedonian National Theater. The newspapers in Macedonian such as "Pirinsko delo", "Nova Makedonija", "Mlad borec" etc. were also published. Literary circles and cultural and artistic associations were founded contributing to the spreading of the Macedonian culture. In the Bulgarian census of 1956, 63,7% of the population in Pirin declared itself as Macedonian. However, since 1956 Bulgaria has altered her attitude, negating again the existence of the Macedonian nation and forbidding the expression of Macedonian nationality and language. The idea for enforced and as result, in the census of 1965, the number of Macedonians dropped to only 8,750 and in the district of Blagoevgrad which previously had the highest percentage of Macedonians, it was less than 1%. But the fact that the Macedonians exist in Bulgaria can not be denied.  The Times Atlas of World History acknowledges in its map that Pirin Macedonia is entirely populated by Macedonians.  The recent archeological discovery in Aegean Macedonia in Greece confirmed that the Bulgarians had engaged in falsification of the history of Macedonia ever since the 19th century. And finally, the Macedonians in Bulgaria began organizing themselves.  In 1989 the United Macedonian Organization - Ilinden (OMO Ilinden) was formed, demanding cultural and national autonomy for the Macedonians in Pirin.


Republic of Macedonia

As federal Yugoslavia was disintegrating at the beginning of 1990's, on September 8, 1991 in a referendum, 95% of eligible voters approved the independence and sovereignty of the Republic of Macedonia. Kiro Gligorov was elected the first president of independent Macedonia. The new constitution determined the Republic of Macedonia a sovereign, independent, civil, and democratic state, and it recognized the complete equality of the Macedonians and the ethnic minorities. It read "…Macedonia is constituted as a national country of the Macedonian people which guarantees complete civil equality and permanent mutual living of the Macedonian people with the Albanians, Turks, Vlachs, Roma and the other nationalities living in the Republic of Macedonia."

Flag of the Republic of Macedonia 1991

Although the European Community acknowledged that Macedonia had fulfilled the requirements for official recognition, due to the opposition of Greece, which was already a member of the community, the EC decided to postpone the recognition. Greece, afraid that Macedonia might put forward a historical, cultural, and linguistic, claim over Aegean Macedonia, insisted that the new nation has no right to use of the name "Macedonia" and use the emblem of ancient Macedonia on its flag. In July of 1992 there were demonstrations by 100,000 Macedonians in the capital Skopje over the failure to receive recognition. But despite Greek objections, Macedonia was admitted to the United Nations under the temporary reference (not an official name) "the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" in 1993. Full diplomatic relations with a number of EC nations followed, while Russia, China, Turkey, Bulgaria and most nations, ignored Greece's objections and recognized Macedonia under its constitutional name "Republic of Macedonia".

Greece slapped a trade embargo on Macedonia on February 1994 because of the refusal of the Macedonian President Gligorov to rename the country, nation, and language, and change the Constitution because Article 47 specifies that "the Republic of Macedonia cares for the statue and rights of those persons belonging to the Macedonian people in neighboring countries, as well as Macedonian ex-parties, assists their cultural development and promotes links with them." Ironically, Greece also has a similar article in her Constitution, as any other country in the world, to care for her minorities in the neighboring countries. But the embargo had devastating impact on Macedonia's economy as the country was cut-off from the port of Salonica and became landlocked because of the UN embargo on Yugoslavia to the north, and the Greek embargo to the south. Greece would remove the embargo only if Macedonia satisfies her demands and despite international criticism it did not lift the embargo. At the same time, Greece withdrew from the Greek - Macedonian talks, monitored by the UN as a mediator, and blocked any acceptance of Macedonia in the international institutions by using its power to veto new members. Faced with economic collapse, and left without any support from the international community, Macedonia was practically forced to change its flag and constitution, upon which Greece lifted the embargo. Ironically, in 1995 the Human Rights Watch - Helsinki, condemned Greece for the oppression of its ethnic Macedonian minority, which Greece denies it exists. Both Amnesty International and the European Parliament had also urged Greece to recognize the existence of the Macedonian language and stop the oppression of the ethnic Macedonians.


Tensions in North-Western Macedonia 

In 1994, Kiro Gligorov was re-elected president but he was seriously injured in 1995 in a car bombing. He was able to resume his duties in 1996. Tensions with the Albanian minority continued as some Albanian politicians begun criticizing the Macedonian government on international scene. The Albanians were very small minority in Macedonia after World War II. Since then, they emigrated in greater numbers from Albania into Macedonia looking for a better life and Macedonia opened its doors to them. By 1953, they composed 12.5% of Macedonia's population, and by encouraging large families they became faster growing element then the Macedonians and any of the other smaller minorities.

Today, the Albanians claim that their human rights are not fulfilled in Macedonia, that their statistical numbers are much higher then the recorded 23% in the censuses of the 1990's, and they demand a "cultural autonomy" in north-western Macedonia where they live in greater numbers among the Macedonians. This, despite the fact that Macedonia had always provided its Albanian minority with a freedom of having TV, radio, newspapers, elementary and high schools in their own language, and even ministers in the government, and despite the fact that international observers monitored the censuses of 1991 and 1994 and verified the results as accurate. Clearly a sharp contrasts and complete opposite to the plight of ethnic Macedonians in Greece, Bulgaria, and Albania, whose minimal human rights are not respected at all.

One final observation regarding the Albanians has to be made. The Albanians claim that they are descendants of the ancient Illyrians (the western neighbors of the ancient Macedonians) and some Albanians have gone as far as claiming part of Macedonia (as well as parts of Serbia, Montenegro, and Greece) as "Greater Albania". It should be stressed that the Albanians are not direct descendants of the ancient Illyrians. In fact, their original home has never been modern Albania, since in ancient times Albania was located in Asia on the Caucasus. The ancient Greek and Roman historians clearly mention the Albanians fighting on the side of the Persians against the Macedonian army of Alexander the Great and Plutarch wrote that they fought the Roman army under Ptolemy in Asia as well. The ancient geographers Ptolemy of Alexandria (2nd century A.D.) and Strabo made clear maps of Albania in Asia (as well as of Macedonia separate from Greece, Illyria, and Thrace). The Albanians came to Europe and settled present day Albania many centuries later, becoming the latest arrivals on the Balkans, as there are being mentioned for first time in Europe many centuries after the arrival of the Slavs and Bulgars. By the time of their arrival, the modern Macedonian, Greek, and Bulgarian nations were already in the process of formation from the roots of the ancient Macedonian, Greek, and Thracian peoples, but the ancient Illyrians were far more assimilated and their name disappears from history. If the Albanians are therefore recognized as descendants of the Illyrians (although their link to any ancient Balkan nation is the weakest out of all modern nations due to the enormous time span), then it must be recognized that today's Macedonians are more then justified descendants of the ancient Macedonians (with Slav admixture from the 6th century). Similarly the modern Greeks are descendants of the ancient Greeks (with Slav and Turkish admixture), and the modern Bulgarians are descendants of the ancient Thracians (with Bulgar and Slav admixture), a fact that these three nations are quite aware of in their own historiographies. In addition, the fact that the Albanians have retained their original Albanian name and not the Illyrian, unlike the Macedonians and the Greeks who still carry their ancient names, furthermore supports the fact that they are direct descendants of the Asian Albanians and not of the ancient European Illyrians. 



1.     Ancient Greek and Roman historians: Arrian, Plutarch, Diodorus, Justin, Herodotus, Polybius, Curtius, Thracymachus, Livius, Demosthenes, Isocrates, Thucydides, Pseudo-Herod, Medeios of Larisa, Pseudo-Calisthanes, Pausanius, Ephoros, Pseudo-Skylax, Dionysius son of Kaliphon, Dionisyus Periegetes, Ptolemy of Alexandria (Geography) and Strabo.

2.      In the Shadow of Olympus (1990) and Makedonika (1995) - Eugene N. Borza

3.      Macedonia and Greece in Late Classical and Early Hellenistic Times -Ernst Badian, 1980

4.      Alexander of Macedon 356-323 B.C.: A Historical Biography by Peter Green, 1991

5.      Philip and Alexander of Macedon - David G. Hogarth, 1897

6.      Krste Misirkov - About Macedonian Matters 1903

7.      St. Petersburg periodical (Macedonian Voice) 1913-1914

8.      Fields of Wheat, Hills of Blood: Passages to Nationhood in Greek Macedonia, 1870-1990 - Anastasia N. Karakasidou, 1997

9.      The Macedonian Conflict - Loring M. Danforth, 1995

10.  Denying Ethnic Identity: The Macedonians of Greece by Human Rights Watch Helsinki, 1995

11.  Encyclopaedia Britannica Coutrywatch

12.  The censuses of the Republic of Macedonia

13.  Macedonia and Greece: the Struggle to Define a new Balkan Nation - John Shea, 1997


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