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The Macedonian Minority in Bulgaria


After the partition of Macedonia in 1913, the Macedonians of Pirin became a minority, within the new Bulgarian borders.  The results of the 1946 Bulgarian census concerning the Macedonian population were never made public by the Bulgarian authorities. However, Yugoslav sources claim that 252,908 people declared themselves as Macedonians in that census. The Bulgarian census of 1956 recorded 187,789 Macedonians, over 95% of whom lived in the Pirin region of Macedonia. For some "strange" reason, however, just after less than a decade, in the 1965 census the number of Macedonians dropped to only 8750 and in the district of Blagoevgrad which previously had the highest percentage of Macedonians it was less than 1%. This is also the time of a number of political trials of people accused of activity based on Macedonian nationalism. As example, in 1964 four people from Blagoevgrad were reportedly tried for writing "We are Macedonians" and "Long live the Macedonian nation" on a restaurant wall.

In February 1990, all the spokesmen of the main Bulgarian political parties stressed that there was no "Macedonian Question" and that the Macedonians were Bulgarians. However, developments within Bulgaria pointed to the contrary. In March, a communiqué from an organization calling itself "The Solidarity and Straggle Committee of Pirin Macedonians" appeared claiming to speak for "the 250,000 Pirin Macedonians". On March 11, the Independent Macedonian Organization, Ilinden, which was formed in November 1989, organized a rally in Sofia with demands for cultural and national autonomy of Macedonians in Bulgaria, displaying slogans like: "We are Macedonians and nothing else" and "United Macedonia: a guarantee for peace". The following map entitled Minorities in Bulgaria, can also be found in the Hugh Poulton's "The Balkans - Minorities and States in conflict". The Macedonians are very clearly recognized as a national minority that occupies the Pirin region.

Macedonians in Bulgaria

The Balkans - Minorities and States in conflict


Finally, the CIA Ethnic Map of Balkans and Macedonia is another strong proof of the existence of ethnic Macedonians in Pirin Macedonia, Bulgaria.

Detail from the CIA Ethnic Map of the Balkans


The Macedonians of Pirin Macedonia Demand Human Rights

This is the letter from the leadership of the Macedonian Democratic party in Bulgaria which was sent to the Commission for Human Rights within the Council of Europe in 1994.

"Dear Sirs,

We address you as a last instance - we, the leadership of the Macedonian Democratic party in Bulgaria (MDP), with the aim of expressing our resolute protest in relation to the conditions of the human  rights of the Macedonians in Bulgaria.

We, the Macedonians in Pirin Macedonia and the other Macedonians, who have been moved forcefully, or 'freely' to the provinces in the country, are not given the right to organized political and cultural  social life. We want to be loyal citizens of the state we live in, but we are denied all rights, from national self-orientation, to the rights of congregation in all kinds of socio-political associations.

We founded the party exclusively on democratic principles, but we are not allowed to register, due to an article in the Constitution which does not allow the formation of a party which protects the nationality of its members - in our case, that is Macedonian national affiliation. In such a situation, over two million Macedonians can not take part in the elections with full rights, with their own candidates, to present them in Parliament and protect their interests. Illegality has been proclaimed against t he activists, members and sympathizers of MDP, and against the members of the United Macedonian Organization "ILINDEN," or to be more specific, they are placed outside the law, while the police organs are carrying out terror, under the leadership of the state public prosecutor.

We, the Macedonians in Bulgaria are not allowed by the police to pay our respects and bow before the grave of the great Macedonian revolutionary Jane Sandanski, in an organized way, nor to lay flowers  and wreaths at the monuments of Goce Delcev in Blagoevgrad and other prominent Macedonian revolutionaries. Every year, on the day of the death of Jane Sandanski, killed in a most vicious way by the  Bulgaria national-chauvinists, the police blocks the roads that lead to the grave and the place where the Pirin King was killed. The police physically beats the Macedonians from "Ilinden" and the other Macedonian formations who meet on this occasion, they tear up the newspapers and brutally beat us, who are headed towards the grave of Jane Sandanski. The se conflicts, which occur regularly every  year, have already turned into small wars between the Bulgarian police and the most courageous Macedonians in Bulgaria.

The most powerful media - the Bulgarian national TV, however, presents the conflicts in a biased manner - in the spirit of the official state anti-Macedonian policy. Our activities and appearances, which have absolutely no anti- national manifestations, a re presented by the television, in front of the entire Bulgarian populations, in such a way: as if we, the Macedonians, have dared to get organized and fight for our human rights, and manifest ourselves as sworn enemies of Bulgaria and the Bulgarian people.

All of this, however, is very likely to lead to real political cataclysm one day. We, the Macedonians from Pirin Macedonia and the Bulgarian provinces, who dare back off in front of the measures of the Bulgarian police and restrain ourselves from responding to the physical torture by the police, who bare all this humiliation and allow ourselves to be beaten, will find that one day, our patience will explode and it is absolutely possible that it would come to bloody battles, i.e. a second Bosnia.

Blagoj Zashov, authorized by the MDP Presidency.


Amnesty International on behalf of the Pirin Macedonians

Amnesty International, International Secretariat, 1 Easton Street, London WC1X 8DJ, United Kingdom

22 APRIL 1994

Bulgaria: Amnesty International Urges Authorities To Ensure Police Observance Of International Human Rights Standards

Amnesty International is urging the authorities to ensure that police abide by international human rights standards at tomorrow's ethnic Macedonian commemorative assembly, following the violent events which overtook the assembly last year.

The commemorative assembly at Rozhen Monastery is an annual event, traditionally organized by OMO "Ilinden" (United Macedonian Organization "Ilinden") to commemorate the death of Jane Sandanski, a local hero of the struggle against Ott oman rule at the turn of the century.

On 24 April 1993, dozens of ethnic Macedonians, many of them members of OMO "Ilinden", were ill-treated by police officers in Lozenitsa and Spatovo after attempting to visit Rozhen Monastery.

"Special police units beat them with truncheons and rifle butts; they dragged people from their cars and knocked them to the ground", Amnesty International said. "We are concerned that the apparently  unprovoked attack by officers of the special police units on the people who gathered in Lozenitsa and Spatovo represented a flagrant violation of international human rights standards, including the  International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Bulgaria has acceded." ;

Amnesty International is particularly concerned by the reported statement from the Regional Security Service of Blagoevgrad that the police are undertaking "all appropriate measures to surround the area around the Rozhen Monastery on 23 April and to prevent the OMO "Ilinden" assembly from taking place".

Three ethnic Macedonians are already reported to have been detained in Blagoevgrad while peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression. On 15 April, Stoyan Machkarov, Khristo Yanev and Lubomir Vasilev were reportedly arrested by members of the Regional Security Service of Blagoevgrad and charged with putting up posters to announce Saturday's assembly. All three were allegedly beaten while in the police station before being released that day.

Amnesty International considers their detention and alleged ill- treatment to be a violation of the ICCPR. As a State Party to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Bulgaria is bound to initiate a prompt and impartial investigation wherever there is evidence that torture or other ill- treatment has occurred.

Amnesty International has written to Zhelyu Zhelev, the President of Bulgaria, urging him to initiate an independent and impartial inquiry into the alleged beatings in Blagoevgrad, to make public its findings and to bring to justice anyone responsible for human rights violations. The human rights organization has still not received any reply to its letter of July 1993, to Minister of the Interior, Viktor Mikhaylov, that expressed its concern at the police violence at last year's assembly. The human rights organization called on the Bulgarian Government to initiate an independent and impartial inquiry into the alleged ill- treatment of people in Lozenitsa and Spatovo, to make public its findings and to bring to justice all those found responsible. Amnesty International is not aware whether such an investigation took place.

The human rights organization is urging President Zhelev to ensure that the police in the area of Rozhen Monastery on 23 April abide by relevant international human rights standards including UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials.



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