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„Who are the true Macedonians?“ by Borce Georgevski

Who are the true Macedonians?

by Borce Georgevski

(Cross Examination of the Greek and Macedonian views on the Macedonian Question)


After the break-up of Yugoslavia, five new states emerged as its successors. Out of them, only the Republic of Macedonia proclaimed independence without warfare and bloodshed. Hence, one would expect that the Republic of Macedonia would be the first to receive international recognition. However, that did not happen. In fact, the Republic of Macedonia was the last state, from the successor states of Former Yugoslavia, to receive international recognition, and even then under a temporary label.

Macedonia’s recognition was vetoed and prevented by Greece. Because of Greece, Macedonia was deprived from joining International organizations, and since Greece is a member of the European Union and NATO, these Organizations were quite numerous.

Why did Greece act with such forcefulness and severity in its attempt to prevent this small country, inferior to Greece in military and economic power, from obtaining international recognition? And, what is the validity of its main argument that

„Macedonia is and has always been part of the Greek national heritage and no one else has the right to use that name? (PMN)“ A statement based on Modern Greek claims that the Ancient Macedonians were Greek.

In view of this Greek claim, I will dedicate most of the space in this write-up to examine the „historical aspects“ offered by the Greek side and then present evidence from the Macedonian side.

So that there is no misunderstanding, I will refer to the population of Macedonia from about 700 BC to 700 AD (approximately) as „Ancient Macedonian“. I will also refer to the population of today’s Republic of Macedonia, which declare itself as non-Greek, non-Serbian, non-Bulgarian, non-Albanian and which is a separate and distinct people, as „Macedonian“ in the meaning of modern ethnic Macedonian.

In the discussions that follow I will present unaltered material directly from primary sources from which the Greek side draws its arguments. Secondary sources will also be utilized, particularly those which appear to be unbiased towards neither the Greek or Macedonian point of view. And finally I will present both sides of the arguments including their interpretations.


My emphasis will be on primary sources, since all other works are just interpretations and speculation based on the former. The national views of the Greek and Macedonian side will be presented through two written works made available to me, as well as material offered on Web sites.

The book „Macedonia and its relations with Greece“ put together by the Council for Research into South Eastern Europe of The Macedonian Academy of sciences and Arts (MANU), which I use as a source here, is a rare book, translated from Macedonian to English, which specifically deals with the Macedonian side of the issue. There is also an ocean of literature in the Republic of Macedonia, but some of it tends to be a bit speculative. The situation is similar on the Greek side where much of the literature tends to be nationalistic and highly speculative.

As for the book „Macedonia and its relations with Greece“, in my view I believe to some degree of accuracy, does a good job in presenting the information especially about the ancient Macedonian language, pointing out that there are not enough ancient Macedonian words preserved to be able to reconstruct the language, but at the same time, it points out that most preserved words are certainly not Greek.

The paper „The Macedonian Question Reexamined“ written by Dr. Symeon Giannakos and published in the „Mediterranean Journal Quarterly“, I believe is one of the better papers that represent the Greek point of view, from what I could find in print. I is focused, somewhat unbiased, and provides much valuable information for understanding the Greek point of view. It is a pity it does not explore the Macedonian point of view in similar depth. This paper also explores the Bulgarian and to a lesser extent, the Serbian points of view, while dedicating only a couple of paragraphs to the Macedonian point of view.

There is however, one great flaw in Dr. Giannakos‘ representation of the Macedonians. This flaw is revealed in a statement he makes claiming that the Macedonian identity was created in 1906. He says: „that the Macedonians were a separate people, [is] a theory created in 1906 by Jovan Cvijic.“

Mr. Giannakos here overlooks the works of Gjorgji Pulevski compiled at the end of the 19th century, the revolts of the Macedonian High School students in Solun (Thessaloniki) against the Bulgarian language in the late XIX century, and certainly one of the most important corner-stones of the Macedonian nation, Krste Misirkov’s book „About Macedonian Matters“ published in 1903.

And finally, I do not agree with Dr. Giannakos‘ proposed solution to the Macedonian question where he suggests that the Republic of Macedonia be partitioned and the pieces be given to the neighboring states. This is not a desirable solution and has not worked in the past. This type of solution was already implemented in 1913 and it has not solved the Macedonian question. Dr. Giannakos wrote his paper in 1992, many years after Macedonia was partitioned and should have known that such a scenario is unrealistic, and, quite honestly, violent.

Timeline Analysis

For my timeline analysis I will sub-divide Macedonia’s history into four periods:

1 – Prehistoric times to Alexander III of Macedon

2 – Alexander III’s death to mid-6th century

3 – Mid-6th century to mid-19th century

4 – Mid-19th century to the present

Considering the nature of the topic I will put more emphasis on the first and most disputable period. I will also present the fourth period in some detail since that is the period during which the Macedonian national consciousness peaked. Finally I will put forth what could be a likely scenario of how the Macedonian national consciousness developed through the centuries, and will also propose a possible solution to solving the Macedonian Question.

1. Prehistoric times to Alexander III of Macedon

According to some Greeks, the Macedonians were a Dorian tribe which settled on the territory of today’s Aegean/Greek Macedonia, a territory that was taken from the native Thracians by an act of war. Greeks draw this conclusion from the following passage from Herodotus:

… when they [Lacadaemonians, Dorian Tribe] were driven out of Histiaeotis by the Cadmaeans, they settled on Mount Pindus, at a place called Macednum; thence they again relocated to Dyopis; and some time later after arriving at the Peloponnesus they were called Dorians. (Herodotus, I, 56)

Macedonians argue that this claim, besides being vague at the mention of Macednum sounding like Macedonia, is not supported by any other historical or archaeological evidence. The efforts of Greek scholars to find Dorian roots in the preserved ancient Macedonian words gave no results, so recent official Greek scholarship was forced to discard this hypothesis (FAQ, History …).

The present Greek view regarding early ancient history is based mainly on the writings of Herodotus who holds a biased pro-Greek view of „History.“ The strongest Greek argument regarding this matter is based on a passage from Herodotus in which Alexander, the king of Macedon, is admitted to the Olympic Games, an honor reserved only for Greeks usually. Here is that passage in its entirety:

„That these princes, who are sprung from Perdiccas, are Greeks, as they themselves affirm, I myself happen to know; and in future part of my history I will prove that they are Greeks. Moreover, the judges presiding at the games of the Greek in Olympia have determined that they are so; for when Alexander wished to enter the lists, and went there for that purpose, his Greek competitors wished to exclude him, alleging, that the games were not instituted for barbarian participants, but Greeks. But Alexander, after he had proved himself to be an Argive (from Argos), was pronounced to be a Greek, and when he was to contend in the stadium, his lot fell out with that of the first competitor. In this manner were these things transacted.“ (Herodotus, V, 22)

Further in the „Histories“ (VIII, 137) Herodotus presents the descendants of this Alexander who was the seventh ancestor of Perdiccas who came from Argos. But what does this prove? At best, this proves that the Macedonian royal dynasty may have begun from Greek roots. Even though it is obvious in the text that Herodotus is taking upon himself to persuade the reader that Alexander was definitely Greek (why the need to persuade if there wasn’t already a doubt?),he still describes the Macedonian king Amyntas, father of Alexander, ruling around 500 BC as a „Greek ruling over Macedonians“ (Herodotus, V, 20) and Hammond presenting the original sentence in Greek says, „Herodotus said this in four words,  introducing Amyntas,…, as ‚a Greek ruling over Macedonians‘ ( 5,20,4, anhr Ellhn Makedonwn nparcz “ (Hammond, 19) So, it seems like the non-Greek-ness of the general Macedonian population was widely accepted at that time.

During the seven generations since Perdiccas’s rule however, the kings took wives from the local Macedonian nobles and mixed their blood with that of the Macedonians. Think about it: if the Greeks at the Olympic Games questioned the Macedonian king’s origin as being non-Greek barbarian, how then can his descendants be Greek?

We find the following passages in the „History of the Ancient World“ by Chester Starr:

Its [Macedonian] kings fostered Greek culture at their courts and were accepted as Greeks by the officials of the Olympic Games; but the peasantry and the nobles, though akin to Greeks, were considered distinct. (Starr 367)

From here we can see that the kings were said to be of Greek origin which only applied to the royal family and not to all Macedonians. The nobles and the general population were of a distinct Macedonian identity. Today we have many examples where royal families were started by nobles from other nations. For example, the former Romanian king was of German origin. This however does not mean that all Romanians are automatically Germans or that the king is Romanian. However, after a few generations, with the kings marrying local women, bloodlines are mixed, and as this happens more and more, their future generations would become Romanians with some German ancestry. Ironically, prince Otto from Bavaria, founder of the Modern 19th century Greek royal family was a German. Should we now start making claims that all Greeks today are Germans based on this fact?

Even if we are to fully accept that Perdiccas was of Greek origin, surely then Philip II of Macedon, born nine generations later (that is nine generations of mixing blood-lines) was almost completely Macedonian.

One of the strongest arguments the Macedonian side poses about Philip not being Greek is drawn from the speeches of Demosthenes called Philippics. In his third Philippic Demosthenes says the following:

„And we must be sensible that whatever wrong the Greeks sustained from Lacedaemonians or from us, was at least inflicted by genuine people of Greece; (…) And yet in regards to Philip and his conduct they feel not this, although he is not only no Greek and no way akin to Greeks, but not even a barbarian of a place honorable to mention; in fact, a vile fellow of Macedon, from which one could not even purchase a respectable slave.“ (Demosthenes, III Philippic)

Greeks object to this and accuse Demosthenes of being non-factual because of his hatred for Philip who posed a threat to the freedom of Athens. Still, Macedonians argue that Demosthenes was the greatest orator of ancient Greece, so it is very questionable that he would use false language in his speeches, especially having in mind the audience in front of which he spoke that consisted of intelligent and well educated Athenians.

Further, Greek sources argue, since all the Ancient Macedonians were Greeks, it is logical that Philip II and Alexander of Macedon were also Greeks. Macedonians however, oppose such arguments claiming that just because the founder of the Macedonian dynasty may have been Greek, that does not make the Macedonian people or Philip and Alexander Greek. Greeks support their views mainly with quotes from the letter Isocrates send to Philip saying „Argos is the land of your fathers“. (Isoc., To Philip, 32)

„It is your privilege, as one who has been blessed with untrammeled freedom, to consider all Hellas your fatherland, as did the founder of your race“. (Isoc., To Philip, 127) „… all men will be grateful to you: the Hellenes for your kindness to them and the rest of the nations, if by your hands they are delivered from barbaric despotism and are brought under the protection of Hellas.“ (Isoc., To Philip, 154) (Quoted at PMN, Historical …)

In spite of the fact that Isocrates was trying to persuade Philip to start a war for his own causes (not a small thing), what else could this mean? This could only enforce the previous hypothesis that the founder of the Macedonian royal house was of Greek origin, which we already dealt with. It doesn’t say anything about the identity of the Macedonians, and even puts doubt on Philip’s self-identity as a Greek, as if such self-identity was strong, would there have been need of so much reminding and pleading from Isocrates?  The Greek view assumes Philip to be Greek only through his predecessor Perdiccas, the founder of the Macedonian dynasty. However, nine generations after Perdiccas the Greek blood in Philip’s veins was all but vanished, and questioned by everyone, both inside and outside of Macedon.

Macedonian sources use the following quotations extracted from the biographies of Alexander the Great to prove that the Macedonians, at least the educated nobles, were bilingual, speaking the common language that the educated spoke, which at that period was Greek (as Latin was in the Middle Ages), as well as the uniquely Macedonian language which foreigners, including Greeks, could not understand.  The quotes were taken from the part of the histories describing Alexander’s general Philotas’s trial for treason.

Alexander said: „The Macedonians are about to pass judgment upon you; I wish to know whether you will address them in their native tongue.“

Thereupon Philotas replied: „Besides the Macedonians there are many present who, I think, will more easily understand what I shall say if I use the same language which you have employed, for no other reason, I suppose, than in order that your speech might be understood by the greater number.“

Then Alexander said: „Do you not see how Philotas loathes even the language of his fatherland? For he alone disdains to learn it. But let him by all means speak in whatever way he desires, provided that you remember he holds our customs in as much abhorrence as our language. (Quintus Curtius Rufus, Alexander, VI. ix. 34 – 36) (Quoted at FAQ, History …)

There is also the following quote which has been much interpreted by both sides:

„For the Macedonians, I will conquer the world (…) but not for the Hellenes“ (Plutarch, Alexander, 47).

In support of this are also the quotes taken from the Life of Aratus, Athenian Statesman, as described by Plutarch, in which he states that Athens was under foreign (Macedonian) rule:

„A year after, being again elected general, he [Aratus] resolved to attempt the capture of Acro-Corinth, not so much for the advantage of the Sicyonians or Achaeans as considering that by expelling the Macedonian garrison he would free all Greece alike from tyranny which oppressed every part of her. (…)

And so may this action be very safely termed sister of those of Peolopidas the Theban and Thasybulus the Athenian, in which they slew tyrants; except, perhaps, it exceeded them upon this account that it was not against natural Greeks, but against a foreign and strange domination.“ (Plutarch, III, Aratus, 425)

From the above quotes we can deduce that the Macedonians were a distinctly different ethnos. Sometimes the Greek side claims that what Alexander meant in the Philotas passage was that Macedonian was a dialect of Greek that was so distant that it has become incomprehensible, however the passage itself says that Philotas never „learned“ the language of his fatherland, and if it was talking merely about a dialect it is doubtful that Philotas would have to „learn“ anything.  Dialects, as a rule, are usually comprehensible; otherwise they stop being dialects and become separate languages.  From the passage we could reasonably be sure that the Macedonian language was not understood by Greeks, and that they were not interchangeable.  Finally, the quote from the Life of Aratus makes it undeniable that Macedonians were considered „foreign occupiers“ in Greece, and definitely not as „natural Greeks.“

There are a few Greek inscriptions that have survived in Macedonia from ancient times but they were left there by the latter Macedonian kings, when Greek was the standard language in the courts and for official business, much like French used to be in England and on the English Court for several centuries.   That, of course, did not mean that the population suddenly became Greek, but only bi-lingual.  Some Ancient Macedonian words have survived today but they are too few for the language to be reconstructed.  It should be noted that no complete text to this day has been found from the ancient Macedonian language.  Only about a hundred or so words are known from which it is impossible to reconstruct the entire language. (MANU, 12)

Macedonians have shown that although some surviving ancient Macedonian words may be close to Ancient Greek (modern Greek – Koine, is quite different), but with a changed vocal system most words resemble Sanskrit and have no resemblance to their the Greek equivalents (FAQ, History ..)  Here are some examples of ancient Macedonian words that sound Greek:

Ancient Macedonian: ade (sky), Ancient Greek: aither (air)

Ancient Macedonian: danos (death), Ancient Greek: thanatos (death)

Ancient Macedonian: keb(a)le (head), Ancient: kephale (head)

Here are some examples of non-Greek sounding words which have parallels in other Indo – European languages:

Ancient Macedonian: aliza (a white layer under the bark of a tree), Ancient Slavonic: elolha (a white layer under the bark of a tree)

Ancient Macedonian: goda (innards), Greek: entera (innards), Ancient Indian Sanskrit: gudam (intestine). (FAQ, Who are the Macedonians?)

There are Macedonian historians who believe that texts written in the Ancient Macedonian language which is different from Greek do exist but are purposely hidden by the Greek government and Church. (FAQ, History …)  If the Ancient Macedonians were Greek then why did their contemporaries in their writing address them as a separate people? Is it perhaps because they might not have been Greek?  N.G.L. Hammond, a long-time Ancient Macedonian history researcher, wrote the following about the Greek view of the Macedonians:

„Writing in 346BC (years of great danger and peril for Athens and Athenians) and eager to win Philip’s approval, Isocrates paid tribute to Philip as a blue-blooded Greek and made it clear at the same time that the Macedonians, the regular people, were not Greeks.  Aristotle, born at Stageira on the Macedonian/Greek border and the son of a Greek doctor at the Macedonian court, classed the Macedonians and their institutions of monarchy as non-Greek, as we shall see shortly.  It is thus not surprising that the Macedonians considered themselves to be, and were treated by Alexander the Great as being, separate from the Greeks. They were proud to be so.“ (Hammond, 19-20)

Another interesting bit about Aristotle was that he was not allowed voting rights in the Athenian Academy because he was not born in Greece proper, but in Macedonia, a foreign land, although a son of a Greek father.

2 – Alexander III’s death to mid-6th century

After Alexander III died his kingdom was partitioned into three separate empires and ruled by his Macedonian generals, the „Epigoni“ (Successors). At that time, in this newly formed world, there was an intense mixing of races and languages. This period was labeled the „Hellenistic Period“ by modern historians to differentiate it from the previous period termed the „Hellenic Period“ (Starr, 329). Greek (Koine) was adopted as the official language of trade and commerce from Iran to Macedonia, and all the educated population, to a great extent, used this language. Macedonian rule in Europe lasted until the year 168 BC when, with the loss of the battle at Pydna, the whole of Macedonia fell under Roman rule. Immediately afterwards, even though Macedonians were proclaimed „free citizens“, they were subordinate to the Romans, a condition which they found difficult to accept.

Because of this, an uprising took place in 148 BC, after which Macedonia was made a Roman province and partitioned and turned into two parts; Macedonia Prima which approximately corresponded to today’s Aegean Macedonia, and Macedonia Salutaris, which approximately corresponded to today’s Vardar and Pirin Macedonia. „The two Macedonian parts formed the Diocese of Macedonia, to which the Romans attached all of modern Greece and Albania“ (MWC).  This Roman definition of the territory of Macedonia is what later Macedonian historians refer to when talking about the „Region of Macedonia“ and it’s natural borders.

Another important period in the region’s history is the adoption of Christianity by the Macedonian and Greek population. While Modern Greeks automatically presume that all people inhabiting Macedonia were already Greeks, thus the Byzantine/East Roman term ‚Romanoi‘ being synonymous with Greek, the Macedonian sources see it differently:

After the establishment of Christianity in the region, both Macedonians and Greeks began to see themselves as Christians and Roman citizens. Those who spoke Latin began to call themselves ‚Romani‘. Those who spoke primarily Greek in the official communication, whether they were Macedonians, Greeks, Armenians, or Arabs, referred to themselves as ‚Rhomaioi‘, a Greek word for Romans, but in this case referring to the „Greek-speaking.“ Those who used the Slavic language were known as ‚Slovene.‘ (MWC)

According to mainstream history, the Balkans were invaded by a variety of people from the 6th to the 9th century AD during which time the Slav speakers in the Balkans and beyond began to adopt Christianity. The following quote came from a Greek source:

„As the countryside was depopulated by the repeated barbarian incursions and the majority of the inhabitants sought refuge and protection in the urban centers, the cities were transformed into centers of intense commercial and cultural activity.“ (PMN, Historical …)

Regarding the same period, the following quote came from a Macedonian source:

„In the sixth century [..] Slavs captured all of Macedonia from the East Romans, with the exception of a few coastal cities. Macedonia maintained its independence and resisted attacks by the Armenian and Syrian dynasties that held power in New Rome (Byzantium) and by the shamanist and nomadic Bulgars who roamed the steppes of the Dobrudja with their herds.“ (MWC)

With this began a new period in the history of Macedonia. As we can see, both sources seem to agree that incursions took place in Macedonia and Macedonia was settled by a variety of people, the majority being Slav speakers, but none of this is strongly supported by historical and archeological data. With the adoption of Christianity these people were integrated into the Byzantine Empire and started to settle in towns and cities as well, besides almost completely ruling the entire countryside of Macedonia.  Also, these people could not all have been Slavs, in an ethnic sense, because of their vast numbers and the also-vast region they occupied. So, at best they can be described as „Slav speakers“ because they shared a language with common roots, which they used for all the official communication.  Also, it could not be definitely determined if these people were „invaders“ or permanent residents who lived on those lands and were, in fact, simply refugees displaced by incursions that were taking place further up north.

3 – Mid-6th century to mid-19th century

This period of Macedonian history is characterized by a short initial period of relative independence, followed by large periods of foreign domination. The foreign domination, starting with the Frankish conquest after the collapse of the Byzantine Empire and the Sack of Constantinople, continued for five centuries of Ottoman occupation until the 20th century. The Ottomans considered the entire Christian population to be the same („Romans“), and usually in their statistics we find recorded only numbers of Christian and Moslem families (PMN, Historical …).

During this period the population in Macedonia began to identify itself by religion rather than by nation, thus the various ethnic identities became more and more blurred partly due to the free intermixing of all the nations in Macedonia.  It was in the middle of the 19th century, when Western Europeans introduced nationalism to Macedonia that the national feeling of Macedonians, primarily the intelligentsia, began to awaken. This process was accelerated after the independence of Bulgaria, and its fierce propaganda to present the Macedonians as Bulgarians, which the Macedonian intelligentsia had to fight against.

4 – Mid-19th century to the present

Before continuing with the analysis of the Greek-Macedonian relations, I would like to point out some facts about the awakening of the Macedonian national consciousness, a process which began way before 1906.  The year 1906 was the date Dr. Giannakos used, citing Cvijic’s book mentioned earlier as the „creation“ of the „Macedonian“ nation. (Gianakos, 38)

The Macedonians described themselves as: non-Greek, non-Bulgarian, non-Serb, but a distinct Macedonian nation already in the 19th century.  On April 8, 1887 two Macedonian revolutionaries sent a letter to the Grand Vizier in Istanbul asking for permission to begin publishing a newspaper called „Macedonian Newspaper“.  A couple of reasons for wanting to publish it were stated as follows:

„We would like to present information before a wider audience showing that our fatherland has nothing in common with the Bulgarians, or with any of the other Balkan petty states.“

„We would like to inform our readers to avoid foreign propaganda and warn them of foreign intrigues.“  (Ristovski, 12)

In January 1888 nineteen students were expelled from the Bulgarian run Exarchate Gymnasium in Solun/Thessaloniki following a student rebellion. The students were expelled because they refused to study „in the Bulgarian language and wanted to be taught in their native Macedonian language“. (Ristovski, 14)

In 1890 the book „Das Volksthum der Slaven Makedoniens Ein Beitrag zur Klarung der Orientfrage“ by Karl Hron, was published in Vienna in which the author scientifically rejects Bulgarian and Serbian claims on the Macedonians.

And finally in the book „About Macedonian Matters“ by Krste Misirkov, the „Macedonian Bible“ published in 1903, he clearly says that Macedonians are neither Greeks, nor Bulgarians, nor Serbs, but a separate nation, with a separate language, culture, and history. In his book Misirkov also outlines the history of the Macedonian nation, and lays the foundations of the Macedonian literary language. Misirkov, a linguist by education, discusses in length the similarities and the differences between the Macedonian and all other languages belonging to the South Slav family of Languages. In his newspaper „Vardar“, published in 1905 in a language very similar to the modern Macedonian literary language, different from Bulgarian, Misirkov uses the first forms of the Macedonian Cyrillic Alphabet to represent sounds that have no equivalents in other Slav languages like kj and gj, and separate letters for lj, nj, dzh and dz.

Greeks prefer to cite Ottoman statistics which base their numbers on church affiliation as follows:

The [1905] census indicates that the non-Muslim inhabitants of Macedonia identified themselves as follows: 648, 962 Greeks, 557, 000 Bulgarians, and 167, 601 Serbians. (Giannakos, 29)

Macedonians however view such Ottoman statistics as unreliable because they are based on Christian church affiliation and not on ethnicity.

Mr. Giannakos admits that „… A long-time student of Balkan Affairs, Elisabeth Barker, points out that perhaps as many as half of the inhabitants who identified themselves as

Greeks were in reality „Slavs“ allegiant to the Greek patriarchate Church in Constantinople. They were identified as Greeks, therefore, not by ethnic origin but by Christian church affiliation.“ (Giannakos, 30)

Macedonians prefer to cite travel reports from Westerners who visited Macedonia which they consider to be more reliable than most Greek, Serbian or Bulgarian statistics of the time.  One such traveler was H.N. Brailsford who visited Macedonia twice in 1903-4.  The second time he spent five months in Bitola/Monastir district.  Here is what Brailsford had to say about the ethnic composition of Macedonia:

„One is compelled to write of ‚Turks‘ in dealing with Macedonia, but really the term has no ethnological meaning – as little as the other term, ‚Greeks‘. The first step, indeed, towards understanding the Macedonian question is to realize that roughly in Macedonia Proper – the Macedonia which revolts, which claims to be a unity and asks for autonomy – there are neither Greeks nor Turks“. (Brailsford, 80)

„Roughly speaking, Turks, Greeks, Jews and Gypsies are found only in the towns and may be almost ignored in a broad view of Macedonian ethnography.“ (Brailsford, 86)

Macedonians also argue that Macedonian peasants, at that time still did not have a definite national consciousness and tended to side with one or another of the contemporary propagandas, mainly for economical reasons.

The French consul in Bitola in 1904 was quoted as saying that „with a million francs I could turn every Macedonian into a Frenchman. I would preach to them that the Macedonians are the descendants of the French crusaders who conquered Salonica in the 12th century, and the francs would do the rest.“ (Brailsford, 103)

The notion of nationality was very extendible and dependent on economic resources in Macedonia at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century is most clearly shown by the following case as told by Brailsford:

„I was talking to a wealthy peasant who came from a neighboring village to Monastir[Bitola] market. He spoke Greek well, but hardly like a native. ‚Is your village Greek,‘ I asked him, ‚or Bulgarian?‘ ‚Well,‘ he replied, ‚it is Bulgarian now, but four years ago it was Greek.‘ The answer seemed to him entirely natural and commonplace. ‚How,‘ I asked in some bewilderment, ‚did that miracle come about?‘ ‚Why,‘ said he, ‚we are all poor men, but we want to have our own school and priest who will look after us properly. We used to have a Greek teacher. We paid him $5 a year and the Greek consul paid him another $5; but we had no priest of our own. We shared a priest with several other villages, but he was very unpunctual and remiss. We went to the Greek Bishop to complain, but he refused to do anything for us. The Bulgarians heard of this and they came and made us an offer. They said they would give us a priest who would live in the village and a teacher to whom we need pay nothing. Well, Sir, ours is a poor village, and so of course we became Bulgarian.“ (Brailsford, 102)

At present, official Greek Government is attempting to stop international recognition of Macedonia by any means possible. Ethnic Macedonians born in Greek occupied Macedonia, known to the world as „Northern Greece,“ who fled during the Greek Civil War, are still not allowed to return to Greece and in accordance with infamous Articles 19 and 20 of Greek Law governing Nationality, their properties and Greek citizenship have been confiscated.

Because of Greek objections, even the Republic of Macedonia, a sovereign and independent state, had to change its national flag and constitution. Still not satisfied, Greece is now putting pressure on the Republic of Macedonia to change its name and this has been going on for almost two decades.  Objections to Macedonia’s name is an official excuse for the Greek government to sidestep real issues like its poor treatment of the Ethnic Macedonians living in the so called „Greek Macedonia“ who have absolutely no human rights to learn and express their ethnic heritage.

Macedonians believe that the real reason behind Greece’s belligerent behavior is fear from the return of the Ethnic Macedonians to their native places in Greek Macedonia and asking for their properties back. After the Greek Civil War ended in 1949, many Macedonians fled from Greece in order to avoid persecution. By article 19 of the Greek Law on Nationality, which was created especially for this purpose, they were forbidden from ever returning to Greece and their citizenship and properties were confiscated. However, most Macedonians who fled Greece still possess legal documents, dating back to the Ottoman Empire, which show that they own land in their native Macedonia, and they can easily win court cases to get their land back. Article 20 of the Greek Law on Nationality allows the government to withdraw citizenships and confiscate properties of individuals who would „act or speak against Greek interests in foreign countries.“ According to the US State department this article has been used in 1995 in 72 cases to revoke the Greek citizenship of individuals.

After its initial approach, the Greek government in 1996 adopted a different one. This was confirmed by Andreas Papandreou, leader of the Greek Socialist Party, when he said that „the name is not a question of history, and it doesn’t have anything to do with the past, but it’s related to the future, to the stability and the security of the region“ (Athens affirms …).  Some Macedonians believe that the Greek government has already recognized the Republic of Macedonia by its name:

„During the conference for standardization of the geographical names, held within the UN in Geneva on August 31st, 1982, the Republic of Greece already recognized our state with the name Socialist Republic of Macedonia. Before that it recognized the Macedonian language, officially recognizing the Macedonian Cyrillic alphabet.“ Documentation for this can be found at the UN. (Greek Recognition …)

Also in a „Memorandum of the Republic of Macedonia to the United Nations considering the name,“ drafted by the Ministry of Foreign Relations, the following was stated:


NAME MACEDONIA [capitals as in the original]. Its northern province was called Northern Greece. With a decree from the Greek Prime Minister, in August 1988, the name „Northern Greece“ was changed to „MACEDONIA“. Hence, in Greece this name had been in use for as little as 4 years. [Written in the beginning of 1993]

v) THE REPUBLIC OF MACEDONIA AS A STATE HAS EXISTED FROM AUGUST 1944 – FOR ALMOST HALF A CENTURY. The Republic of Macedonia, as one of the six republics of Former Yugoslavia, until its break-up, was a member of UN. In fact, Lazar Mojsov, a Macedonian, was president of the XXXII UN General Assembly. (Ministry of …, 4)

5. Most likely Ethno-genesis of the Macedonian People

The Prehistoric Macedonians were native to the Balkan Peninsula, related to the Pelasgians, Illyrians and Thracians, and inhabited the territory of Macedonia before the coming of the tribes that we today call the „Ancient Greeks“. The early Macedonians had primitive state organizations and were ruled by tribal kings. It was not until the 7th century BC that Macedonia became a state as defined in modern terms. History tells us that this state was created by Perdiccas who was possibly from Argos Orestikon, modern day „Kostur/Kastoria“ Region in Greek Macedonia, and who founded the royal Macedonian house. At the time however „Argos“ was a popular name and several cities existed by that name in the region all the way down to the Peloponnesus.  So it was easy for Perdiccas’s descendants to have claimed that they were of Greek origin from Argos (Peloponnesus) and therefore take part in the Olympic Games.

Regardless of who Perdiccas was however, the nobles and the general population of Macedonia were Macedonians, distinctly different from the Greeks, and spoke a Macedonian language different from Greek. Even if the original Macedonian kings had Greek blood, through marriages with the local nobles they became mixed, and by the seventh generation (Alexander II), their Greek-ness became questionable. By the tenth generation (Alexander III of Macedon) the Greek part would have all but vanished.  During the later turbulent centuries more people arrived in the Balkans, some as conquerors, while others as settlers. Some formed tribal states and temporary tribal alliances, but these were volatile and with time disappeared. It was not until the middle of the 19th century, after nationalism was introduced in Macedonia, that the Modern Macedonian nation was formed.

With the weakening of the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century the Macedonians began to form a unique and separate nation different from their neighbors. This was a slow process due to lack of education and widespread poverty. This was also hampered by Bulgaria’s independence and its continuous involvement in Macedonian affairs. In time however, the Macedonian „intelligentsia“ rebelled against Bulgarian propaganda asserting that Macedonians are not Bulgarians, and thus began distancing themselves from Bulgaria.  With Misirkov’s work in 1903 the foundation for a new state, with its own history and language, was laid.  This state was created in 1944, as one of the six constituent states/republics of Former Yugoslavia, and has existed uninterrupted ever since.


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