Macedonia: What Went Wrong in the Last 200 Years - Part IX - Conclusion

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Macedonia: What Went Wrong in the Last 200 Years

Part IX - Conclusion

by Risto Stefov

February, 2003

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In the previous article (part VIII) I covered the evacuation of the Macedonian children and the consequences of the Greek Civil War.

In this final article I will offer my conclusion of what went wrong for Macedonia in the last 200 years.

Even before Alexander's time Macedonia was a single nation. With time she grew and shrank but always remained a single nation until her partition in 1912-13. Today however, while new nations spring up and flourish, Macedonia is still partitioned and fighting for her identity. Why? What went wrong and who is responsible?

In the previous articles (parts I to VIII) I did my best to present an objective analysis of historic events that took place in the last 200 years. Beyond my own editorializing, I abstained from using biased and politically motivated sources and tried my best to be as neutral as possible.

The southern Balkan region, which includes present-day Greece, Albania, Macedonia, Serbia, Bulgaria and European Turkey, was part of the Ottoman Empire and the region had been multi-ethnic and multi-cultural up until the 19th century when nationalism was introduced. Even though the Balkans were nationally pluralistic, the Ottomans used religion as the basic criteria with which to identify their societies.

More than 400 years of Ottoman rule and neglect for basic human rights, halted and reversed the creative spirit of the Balkan people. Education was nonexistent for the Christians and as a result there was no progress. Driven away from their fertile lands, Christians moved to secluded villages away from the Turks. Fear of travel and of strangers isolated them from each other and from the outside world. As a result, very few new ideas and innovations filtered in or out of their communities.

Poor roads as well as the fear of being robbed kept communities isolated thus prohibiting the development of trade. Over time villages developed local economies and became entirely dependent on local resources and the soil to provide everything they needed to survive.

Prolonged isolation and lack of outside contact also caused language divergence resulting in the development of many dialects. Outside of the Turkish language, almost the entire Balkan region from the Peloponisos to Romania spoke the language of the Slavs (Macedonian). There were also small pockets of people who spoke Tosk, Gheg, Vlach, Roma and some Greek around the Aegean and Adriatic coastlines.

Under Turkish occupation, the region survived relatively uninterrupted having almost no contact with the outside world up to the 18th century. The Turkish ruling class and Turkish military lived exclusively off the Christian working class through land ownership and by farming taxes. Having no need to develop economically or militarily, the Ottoman Empire remained static for many years in comparison to the rest of the world.

With the advent of technology and regional economies, Western Europe and Russia began to modernize and by the late 18th century began to expand their empires and infiltrate the Ottoman world. Russia was first to come into contact during the Russian-Turkish war of 1774. After Russia defeated Turkey, she gained access to the Black Sea and became protector of the Christians inside the Ottoman Empire. This was also the first time Turkey ever allowed foreign diplomats (Russian consular agents) inside her empire.

The weakening Ottoman Empire alarmed the Western Powers and for the first time raised the "Eastern Question". What will happen to the Balkans when the Ottoman Empire is gone?

As the Western and Russian economies expanded, the Imperial Great Powers began to compete with each other for territorial expansion and economic influence. Being the last frontier for Imperialist penetration, the Balkans became the "apple of discord".

While the Super Powers were jockeying for a cut of the Balkan pie, Turkey was finding it more and more difficult to maintain her territorial integrity. Having fallen behind in technology and military capability, Turkey found it very expensive and increasingly difficult to defend herself. Having no economy or any other means of supporting her defense budgets, waging war became an added tax burden for the working Christians.

In addition to supporting the Turkish establishment, the Balkan Christian also had to contend with corruption and lawlessness. With the army away fighting wars, Muslim outcasts and professional criminals preyed upon the defenseless Christians. The Christians could not defend themselves because they were not allowed to bear arms.

By the turn of the 19th century, the Balkan peasant population was so oppressed that it could no longer bear the burden and began to rebel.

The first rebellion manifested itself in 1804 when a group of Ianitsari attempted to take control of a region in present day Serbia. In the absence of the Turkish army, bandits and unruly Ianitsaries attacked the unguarded villages killing Christians including priests and prominent village leaders.

Those that fled to the forests took matters into their own hands, organized themselves into fighting units and retaliated by attacking the bandits. The Sultan's army eventually put down the peasant uprising but fear of Russian wrath prompted him to reconsider his actions, giving the rebels autonomy.

The success of the rebellion in Serbia and the willingness of the Super Powers to entertain uprisings inside the Ottoman Empire, prompted another group of people, the Phanariots to consider a rebellion of their own. This particular rebellion was a planned conspiracy designed to oust the Sultan from power and install a Patriarch in his place. In other words, the Phanariot plan was to remove and expel the Muslim Turks out of the Balkans and replace them with Christian rulers, leaving the Empire intact.

The Phanariots were a nationally diverse class of Christian people who served in the Turkish administration. They were called Phanariots because their home was in the Phanar (lighthouse) District of Tsari Grad (Constantinople). In today's terms, the Phanariots were a class of Christian businessmen, professionals and clerics who worked in the Ottoman administration. They were employed by the Sultan to fill the necessary positions that, due to cultural and religious restrictions, could not be filled by Muslims. Subservient to the Muslims, the Phanariots were also rulers of the Christian world.

Due to class differences and being poorly organized, the Phanariot rebellion of 1821 failed to achieve its objectives. It did however, spark an uprising in the Morea district in modern Peloponisos. This uprising was not a call for independence as the Modern Greeks claim it to be but rather a reaction brought on by fear of Turkish retribution.

By the early 1820's it was apparent that the Ottoman Empire was seriously crumbling. Up to now no Powers other than France had economic interests in the Ottoman Empire. The Morean incident however, opened the door for new opportunities. In their eagerness to influence the outcome of the Morean uprising in their favour, the Powers sank the Ottoman fleet at Navarino Bay, thus preventing the Turks from retaking Morea.

Up to the turn of the 19th century France was the dominant power in the west and Russia in the east. With Napoleon's defeat however, Britain was emerging as the dominant power in the west. Unfortunately when it came to Balkan matters Britain and Russia found themselves at odds with one another. Britain had vested interests in her eastern colonies and wanted her shipping lanes secure. Russia on the other hand had ambitions of expanding her shipping into the Mediterranean Sea. This Britain viewed as an intrusion into her interests.

Another matter, which surfaced by the mid 1820s, was the Eastern Question. By 1826, it was becoming obvious that no Super Power wanted a single large state in the Balkans. Super Power strategy was to encourage the formation of a number of smaller states, perhaps on the basis of nationality, following the western model.

With the help of the Super Powers, the first small state to emerge and become independent was the Kingdom of Greece. The Super Powers created Greece and the British took it upon themselves to protect her. A German King and administration were chosen to rule her because the Greeks were incapable of ruling themselves. The distrust among the Powers prevented any one of them ruling. The Germans, who at the time had no vested interest in the Balkans, were viewed as neutral. When Greece became a state for the first time, her people had no notion of a national identity or a national language. Morea was as multinational and multicultural as any region in the Balkans.

The multilingual population of the region was made up mostly of Albanian Tosks, Vlachs, Slavs and some Greeks along the Peloponisos coastline. The idea that these people were Hellenes and descendents of the old City States came later, after an exhaustive search for a national identity. Finding a national language was also a problem that was not solved until the 20th century.

At one point the people of the Greek fledgling nation went as far as considering the Albanian Tosk as their national language. Hellenism was an afterthought, an academic idea imported from Britain and France. When the nation builders created the Greek nationality, they did not follow the natural progression of the national evolution. Instead, they opted for creating an identity with a 2,300-year break in continuity. In other words, the national consciousness of the 19th century Greek is a myth created for the sake of assimilating the various nationalities into a single nation.

Britain's desire to keep Russia out of the Mediterranean Sea created a "non-Slavic" mythical State that would be loyal to Britain and not to Russia. The idea of "a Greek State" satisfied some of the people in the Balkans but left most, especially the Phanariots who wanted to rule the entire Balkans, disappointed.

By the early 1850's, the West European economies were experiencing an economic explosion and the Imperial Powers found themselves competing with each other to win favours from the Ottoman authorities. The power struggle peaked in 1853 and developed into the Crimean war.

On the surface the issue of controversy was who was responsible for controlling access to Christian Holy places in the Ottoman Empire. The real struggle, however, was about who had the most influence over the Ottoman domain. While Russia pitted herself against Turkey and the West in this power play, she failed to see the strength of the British influence over the other Powers. Russia also failed to see that Britain would never accept a Russian victory. As tensions mounted, the Russian armies invaded the Ottoman Empire and occupied Romanian Principalities.

Austria, Romania's neighbour, reacted and demanded that Russia get out of Romania. Encouraged by the Western powers, Turkey refused to negotiate any terms with Russia and in 1853 declared war on her. Others followed and in 1854 Austria forced Russia to evacuate Romania. Then in 1856 Allied Western Powers attacked Russia and took Sevastopol (a chief Russian port on the Black Sea).

Tsar Alexander II could not repel the invaders and gave in to their demands, including opening up the Danube River to shipping for all nations. For the first time Imperial Eastern Europe was opened to capitalism. As a direct result of losing out to the Western allies Russia lost her political influence in Romania and her clout as a power broker in the region.

The Russo-Turkish Crimean war drained Turkey economically. To avoid economic collapse the Western Powers stepped in and helped Turkey, with loans. Turkey, unfortunately, was incapable of properly managing her finances and as a result was unable to manage paying back the loans. Most of the State's income was diverted to military campaigns in order to contain the uprisings. Taxes were raised again and again causing more uprisings and further instability.

Fed up with Turkey's inability to pay off her loans, in 1875 the Western Powers created the Ottoman Public Debt Administration. This allowed foreign investors to take over management of the Ottoman State budgets for the first time. Much needed funds were now diverted to paying off the debt instead of helping the local economy. The local population was overburdened with taxes causing even more discontentment among the peasants.

The situation reached the boiling point in 1875 and manifested itself by many independent uprisings in Bosnia, Montenegro, Serbia, Bulgaria and Macedonia (Razlog uprising). The growing peasant discontentment "disturbed" the Great Powers and in the same year a conference was convened in Tsari Grad to discuss how to handle the problem. The Great Powers decided to place Bulgaria and Macedonia under Great Power control but Turkey disagreed and rejected their demands and again found herself at odds with Russia.

Humiliated by the defeat in the Crimean war, upset over the economic plight of the Balkan people, alienated by the Western Powers, frustrated by the violent demonstrations in Serbia, Montenegro, Bulgaria and Macedonia, Tsar Alexander II of Russia again attacked Turkey and invaded Bulgaria. The Turkish armies were decimated and on March 3, 1878 Russia alone negotiated the San Stefano Treaty with Turkey, which called for the creation of a Greater Bulgaria. The area in question included roughly all of present-day Bulgaria, Macedonia, western Thrace, part of Albania, and a district of Serbia.

The San Stefano Treaty sent shock waves through the Western world including Greece and Serbia, who both had ambitions for future conquests in the region.

Greatly disturbed by the Russian move, the Western Powers convened a conference in July 1878 in Berlin. The San Stefano Agreement was revised giving independence to Serbia, Montenegro and Romania. Bosnia was given to Austria-Hungary (Britain did not want more Slavic States to form in the Balkans). Northern Bulgaria was given autonomy while southern Bulgaria, Macedonia, Thrace, Kosovo and Albania were given back to the Turks.

On the verge of bankruptcy, Russia could not resist the Western Powers and gave in to all their demands.

The decisions made during the Berlin conference of 1878 reshaped the Balkans and set the stage for future events including both World Wars, the Cold War and every Balkan conflict that has since taken place.

At the Berlin Conference of 1878, the Great Powers could have freed Macedonia and given her autonomy, it was within their power to do so but they didn't. Why? There are two obvious reasons.

First, by 1878, with the exception of Russia, all other Super Powers had vested economic interests in the Ottoman Empire. Besides collecting interest on loans, they owned government bonds, shares in road construction, interests in infrastructure projects and investments in the lucrative Ottoman import-export business. Allowing the Ottoman Empire to collapse at this time made no economic sense.

Second, if Macedonia was allowed to become a state, what would have happened to the smaller states like Serbia and Greece? Greece for certain would not have been able to survive economically without the fertile lands of Macedonia.

With Macedonia back in Ottoman hands, the "Eastern Question" became the "Macedonian Question". What would happen to Macedonia after the eventual collapse of the Ottoman Empire?

While Macedonia's future was being decided, to ease the pain of oppression, the Super Powers squeezed Turkey to implement some "reforms". Recommendations were made to reform government institutions, the military, educational institutions as well as to reform the tax system.

As part of the reforms, the Super Powers also requested that the Ottoman authorities identify the "various nationalities" living inside Macedonia and define the "regions they lived in". One of the options contemplated in solving the Macedonian question was to break up the Macedonian territory based on "nationality" groupings and then merge "like" groups with the neighbouring States of similar nationality.

There were two problems with that idea. First, Turkey had no statistics that identified people by "nationality". Turkish statistics were based solely on religious affiliation. Second, since no such statistics existed there was motive for the neighbouring States to invent them.

Once the Greek State was created, the Greek Church began to intrude inside Macedonian territory and by 1850 had taken over the administration of all Macedonian Churches. Secure in their position inside Macedonia, the Greek clergy began disseminating Greek nationalist propaganda with aims of "Hellenizing" the Macedonian population.

This unfair practice prompted Russia to intervene and in 1870 they convinced the Sultan in Tsari Grad to allow the creation of the Exarchist Church. Initially, the Exarchist Church was not affiliated with any State and was probably administered by a Slav faction of the Phanariots. With the emergence of the Bulgarian State in 1878 however, the Exarchist Church began to identify more and more with the Bulgarian State and to vigorously compete with the Patriarchist Church for Macedonian parishioners.

After the conclusion of the Berlin Conference, and with the emergence of the Bulgarian Autonomous State, the Ottoman Empire's decline had passed the point of no return. From then on it was a matter of time before it completely collapsed. For Macedonia, this set the stage for a long and painful struggle.

After 1878, realizing the mortality of their Empire, the Ottoman authorities began to take rebellions seriously. Unfortunately, instead of taking measures to ease tensions, the Turks further tightened their oppressive grip, ignoring the Great Power call for reforms. With Macedonia back in the hands of the Ottoman Empire, Macedonian territory was again available for the taking.

As the 19th century was coming to a close Macedonia was facing many enemies on many fronts. The Macedonian people came to the realization that no one was going to help them and it was time they took matters into their own hands.

On October 23rd, 1893, in Solun, Damjan Gruev, Anton Dimitrov, Petar Pop Arsov, and Hristo Tatarchev gathered together in Ivan Nikolov's house to discuss the plight of the Macedonian people and how to help them. On February 9th, 1894 a committee was formed and a constitution was drafted with the following resolutions:


The committee would be revolutionary in nature and would remain secret.


Its revolutionary activities would be confined to inside Macedonia's borders.


Irrespective of nationality or religion, any Macedonian could become a member of the committee.

The committee also set out the following objectives for itself, which were later ratified at the first Revolutionary Congress held in Resen in August 1894:

1. Destroy the Ottoman social system. 2. Remain an "independent" organization. 3. Seek Macedonian autonomy.

The organization became known as Vnatrezhna (Internal) Makedonska (Macedonian) Revolutsionerna (Revolutionary) Organizatsia (Organization), VMRO (IMRO).

Initially, IMRO had a single enemy, Turkish oppression. With the rise of "nationalism" and with the increased activities and intervention of foreign churches in Macedonia, three more enemies, Greece, Bulgaria and Serbia were added to the list.

The "religious wars" of the late 19th and early 20th centuries in Macedonia were fought between the Greek Patriarchists on one side and the Bulgarian Exarchists on the other. Greece intended to solve the "nationality" question by proclaiming that all Orthodox Christians in Macedonia were Greek because they belonged to the Greek Church. Bulgaria and later Serbia followed suit by also claiming "nationality" rights by church affiliation.

Since Macedonia was predominantly Christian Orthodox all three factions were claiming rights to the same people at the same time. When diplomacy no longer worked, the factions resorted to coercion, violence, blackmail, and armed propaganda campaigns. Prior to the 1903 Ilinden rebellion the Turks were against such action. After the rebellion however, they welcomed the interventions and allowed anti-Macedonian brigands to operate uninhibited.

By 1900, IMRO was facing several fronts in defending the Macedonian people. On one front it was fighting the Turkish army trying to prevent it from attacking and burning Macedonian villages. On another it was fighting foreign incursions sponsored by the Patriarchist and Exarchist Churches. At the same time it had to deal with the conditions of lawlessness and Bashi-bazouk attacks on the civilian population.

On top of that, IMRO was also fighting ideological battles against the Bulgarian Vrhovists who were attempting to sabotage the uprising effort. Unprepared for a full-scale uprising due to lack of arms and ammunition, in the spring of 1903, the IMRO leaders were faced with an important decision. They knew that they were not ready for a full-scale attack against the Turkish army. In fact some believed that a rebellion under those conditions would be suicidal.

They also knew that the Turkish army would destroy Macedonia, village by village, if they didn't do something soon. When the matter was put to a vote the majority voted in favour of an uprising. In Damian Gruev's words it was "better an end with horrors than horrors without end".

Unlike the Greek, Bulgarian and Serbian rebellions which flared up at random reacting to Turkish oppression, the August 2nd, 1903 Macedonian Ilinden uprising was a "planned rebellion". The Macedonian uprising was a well-organized fight for independence that involved the entire Macedonian community at the grass roots level. Greece, Bulgaria and Serbia were liberated with outside help from the Super Powers while Turkey was weak and disorganized. Macedonia, on the other hand, fought with no outside support against Turkey, which was strong and well organized.

Macedonia's bid for independence failed in 1903 not because of a lack of courage or desire for freedom on the part of the Macedonian people, but because of a lack of outside support. Ignoring the Macedonian people's desire for self-determination, the Super Powers allowed Turkey to take back Macedonia. Why? Official history offers no answers. According to European press accounts, when Westerners received news of the Macedonian uprising they cared more for their investments than for the independence of the Macedonian people.

In 1903, Macedonia reached the crossroads of her destiny and failed to gain independence. Why? What else could have been done?

There are those who believe that the qualities that made IMRO successful also made it weak. Instead of working with the bourgeoisie class of Macedonia, IMRO aligned itself with the poor village peasants who did not have the finances or the means to support an armed insurrection. Others believe that not enough lobbying was done to solicit outside (Super Power) help. If IMRO had assured foreign investors that their investments would be secure the outcome may have been different. It is true that IMRO made little effort to solicit outside help.

I believe that after the 1878 Berlin Conference, Macedonia's fate was decided. First, Greece could not have survived economically without the Macedonian territory, Britain was well aware of that. Second, Britain at that time was not prepared to allow another Slav State to emerge in the Balkans. If Macedonia was not allowed to become an independent State, then she should have at least been allowed to merge with another Balkan State. Unfortunately, no Power wanted a "Large State" in the Balkans that had the potential of overpowering the others and dominating the region. The balance of power was best assured with equal sized States.

Prompted by Italian Imperial ventures, Greece, Bulgaria and Serbia expedited their own plans for conquest and in 1912 on the pretense of liberating the Macedonian people, declared war on Turkey and invaded Macedonia.

What was to be a liberation quickly turned to occupation in 1913 when the liberating forces set up the apparatus of government and, by legislative decrees, extended their own constitutions to the new Macedonian territories they occupied. Not only was Macedonia illegally partitioned by imposing artificial borders on its territory but worse than that, over time, the Macedonian people were either forcibly assimilated into the new folds or forcibly expelled from their own ancestral lands.

By the treaty negotiated in August 1913 in Bucharest the map of Macedonia was redrafted ignoring previously agreed upon boundaries as the Bucharest delegates imposed their artificial sovereignty upon the Macedonian people.

With the exception of one minor change in 1920 in Albania's favour, these dividing lines have remained in place to this day. 34,603 square kilometers or 51.57% of the total Macedonian territory went to Greece, 25,714 square kilometers or 38.32% went to Serbia and 6.789 square kilometers or 10.11% went to Bulgaria. August 10th, 1913 became the darkest day in Macedonian history.

Macedonia's hopes were dashed again at the conclusion of the Great War (WW I) in November 1918, when Macedonians were not allowed to attend the Versailles France Peace Conference. Up to this time Macedonia's partition was illegal and not sanctioned by the Powers. With the stroke of a pen in 1919 by the Treaty of Versailles (Paris), England and France sealed Macedonia's fate by ratifying the principles of the Bucharest Treaty and officially endorsing the partitioning of Macedonia.

This unfortunately encouraged Greece to further pursue forced expulsions and denationalization of Macedonians, to begin mass colonization of Macedonia and by the Neuilly Convention, transplant "potential Greeks" into the Macedonian territories. About 70,000 Macedonians were expelled from the Greek occupied part of Macedonia to Bulgaria and 25,000 "so called Greeks" were transplanted from Bulgaria to Greek occupied Macedonia.

By the Treaty of Lausanne in July 1923, the Greco-Turkish war came to an end. Greece and Turkey signed a population exchange agreement. By the stroke of the pen some 380,000 Muslims were exchanged for something like 1,100,000 Christians. The total population in Greece, between 1907 and 1928, rose from 2,600,000 to 6,200,000. After the Greek occupation of Macedonia in 1912, for instance, by their own accounts the Greek elements in Greek occupied Macedonia had constituted 43 percent of the population. By 1926, with the resettlement of the refugees from Asia Minor, the Greek element has risen to 89 percent.

The next major event in Macedonia's history started with high hopes but unfortunately ended with tragic consequences for the Macedonian people. While the Macedonians in the Vardar region of Macedonia had gained some concessions and were re-building their lives after the conclusion of World War II, the Macedonians in Greek occupied Macedonia were engaging in someone else's war. World War II rekindled Macedonian hopes for freedom but the Greek Civil War shattered them. The oppressive aftermath was too much for most Macedonians to bear so they abandoned their beloved villages and immigrated to Canada, the USA and Australia.

As I mentioned earlier, throughout the 19th century the Western Powers, Britain in particular, were in competition with Russia for political and economic influence of the Balkan region. The Western Powers feared Russian Imperial expansion into the West and exercised every means to keep her at bay. Early in the 19th century, the Southern Balkans including Romania, were dominated by Slavs. The Western Powers feared that with Russian influence, an Eastern Slav alliance (Panslavism) was possible and did everything in their power to prevent it.

To prevent the Slavs from uniting, the Western Powers encouraged the creation of "easily manageable Slav opposing" States. These Slav opposing States would not only counter Russian and Slav influence, but they would also remain loyal to their benefactors. And that is exactly why Greece and Albania were created. Being Christian Orthodox and loyal to Russia, Greece, perhaps under a different name, could have easily become a "Slav State".

Hellenism did not exist in the Balkans when the Kingdom of Greece was created for the first time in 1829. The idea of relating modern Greeks to those of 2,300 years ago came from Britain and France as a way of giving the newly created Greek nation a different "national character" from that of the Slavs to the north. This was a reliable way of ensuring Greece would not become a Slav State. Similarly, Albania was also a Western Power (Austrian-Hungarian) creation designed to counter Russian and Slav influence in the Adriatic.

Not all people of newly created Greece were happy with the idea of becoming Hellenes. Many wanted to pursue their Christian roots and maintain a "Christian character". Unfortunately, as nationalism gripped the Balkans, the Hellenic forces gained momentum and slowly extinguished the "multinational and true character" of Greece. With the creation of Bulgaria, competition for influence in Macedonia intensified. By the turn of the 19th century Macedonia became the "apple of discord" between Greece and Bulgaria, two states with diametrically opposed national ideals.

Not to be outdone, Serbia too laid her own claims insisting that the Slavs of Macedonia were Serbs and not Greeks or Bulgarians. So, were the 19th and early 20th century Macedonians "nationally" connected to the Greeks, Bulgarians and Serbians all at the same time?

The 19th and early 20th century questions of what nationalities lived in Macedonia had little do with the "real nationality" of the Macedonian people and a lot to do with the Greek, Bulgarian and Serbian assertion of it. This was done purely for the purpose of laying claims to Macedonian territory. Attesting to her long history, Macedonia has always been and still is multinational and multicultural with a Macedonian majority. Greece on the other hand discarded her "true national identity" and opted for an ideal one.

Bulgaria and Serbia followed suit by claiming "homogeneity" but remained "Slav". In addition to claiming ties to ancient Greek ancestry, Greece went a step further and claimed "racial purity" and "homogeneity". By superficially connecting herself to the ancient people of the Balkans, Greece not only laid territorial claims to their lands but also intentionally excluded all others from making similar claims, including the "most recent owners". Additionally, without proof of "bloodline" Greece also claimed ties to ancient Macedonian ancestry and with that proceeded to take possession of Macedonian territory from its Modern Macedonian owners.

Greece is occupying 51.57% of Macedonia's territory today because according to Greek claims, it belongs to the Modern Greeks. Modern Greeks further claim that they are a pure race descended from the "ancient owners of the land" and thus the land is rightfully theirs by inheritance. Conversely, Modern Greeks claims that the 51.57% of Macedonian territory they occupy today does not belong to the Slavs (Modern Macedonians) because the Slavs are newcomers who migrated to the region only 1,400 years ago. They also claim that today only "pure Greeks" live in "Greek Macedonia".

Let's put these assertions to a test. Is a Modern Greek a "pure Greek with ties to the ancient Greeks" if he or she is a direct descendent of Modern Macedonian, Turk, Albanian or Roma parentage?

If "yes", then Modern Macedonians, Turks, Albanians and Roma MUST ALSO have roots with links to the ancient Greeks and ancient Macedonians.

If "no" then Modern Greeks are NOT "pure Greeks descended from the ancient Greeks" and therefore cannot "EXCLUSIVELY LAY CLAIMS" to Macedonian territory on the basis of "inheritance by bloodline".

Let's take a look at some facts.


It is a well-documented fact that between 1907 and 1928 the population of Modern Greece grew from 2,600,000 to 6,200,000. Where did these people come from? 


It is also a well-documented fact that any Christian Orthodox, be it a Slav, Turk, Albanian, Vlach or Roma, regardless of race, who assumed a Greek name and spoke the Greek language was considered to be Greek.


History has recorded that millions of people were assimilated and added to the Greek fold, regardless of race, some willingly some forcibly, between 1907 and 1928. Today, Greece claims that these people are "pure Greeks descendents of the old Greeks".

Based on the above facts does Greece have the following rights?


To discriminate against those who assert their non-Greek (Macedonian) identity?


To "exclude" Macedonians from "their own" heritage on the basis that they are Slavs and not "Hellenes"?

Here is a summary of what past Greek Governments have done to the Macedonian people in the name of Hellenism.

1923. Greece and Turkey signed a population exchange agreement and by the stroke of the pen some 380,000 Muslims were exchanged for something like 1,100,000 Christians. Most of the Christians from Asia Minor were settled in Macedonia on the lands of those Macedonians killed and exiled in 1912-1913.

1926. Legislative Orders in Government Gazette #331 ordered the names of Macedonian towns, villages, mountains, etc to be changed to Greek. The Macedonian people, under duress, were ordered to abandon their Macedonian names and adopt Greek ones assigned to them by the Greek State.

1927. Cyrillic inscriptions on churches, tombstones, and icons were destroyed or overwritten. Law prohibited Church services in the Macedonian language.

1928. From 1926 to 1928 1,497 Macedonian place-names in Greek occupied Macedonia were Hellenized.

English Journalist V. Hild reveals, The Greeks do not only persecute living Macedonians, but they also persecute dead ones. They do not leave them in peace even in the graves. They erase the Cyrillic inscriptions on the headstones, remove the bones and burn them.

1929. The Greek government enacted a law whereby any demands for national rights by Macedonians were regarded as high treason.

LAW 4096 directive on renaming Macedonian place-names.

1936. From 1936 to 1940 Fascist dictator General Metaxas REIGNED TERROR. Macedonians suffered state terrorism and pogroms. Thousands of Macedonians were jailed, sent to internal exile (EXORIA) on arid, inhospitable Greek islands, where many perished. Their only crime was being ethnic Macedonian by birth.

LAW 6429 reinforces Law 4096 on Hellenization of toponyms.

DECREE 87 accelerated denationalization of Macedonians. The Greek ministry of Education sent specially trained instructors to accelerate the conversion to the Greek language.

1938. LAW 23666 banned the use of the Macedonian language and strove to erase every trace of the Macedonian identity. Macedonians were fined, beaten and jailed for speaking Macedonian. Adults and school children were humiliated by being forced to drink castor oil when caught speaking Macedonian.

LAW 1418 reinforced previous laws on renaming.

1940. From 1929 to 1940 another 39 place-names were Hellenized.

1945. LAW 697 had more regulations on renaming toponyms in Greek occupied Macedonia.

1947. LAW L-2 decreed that Greek citizens suspected of opposing the Greek government during the Greek Civil War were arbitrarily and without due process stripped of their citizenship.

1948. LAW M allowed confiscation of properties from Greek citizens who were accused of assisting the opposition or who fought against the Greek Government.

28,000 CHILD REFUGEES, mostly from Macedonia were evacuated to Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania. To this day Greece denies their right to return.

DECREE 504 continued property confiscation of exiles and colonization of Greek occupied Macedonia with people from Turkey, Egypt and other parts of Greece. Parcels of land were given to colonists along with financial incentives.

1959. LAW 3958 allowed the confiscation of property of those who left Greece and did not return within five years.

Several Macedonian villages in Greek occupied Macedonia were forced to swear LANGUAGE OATHS to speak only Greek and renounce their Macedonian mother tongue.

1962. DECREE 4234 reinforced past laws regarding confiscated properties of political exiles and denied them the right to return.

1968. The EUROPEAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS accused Greece of human rights abuses.

1969. The COUNCIL OF EUROPE declared Greece undemocratic, illiberal, authoritarian, and oppressive. Greece was forced to resign from the Council of Europe under threat of expulsion. A Military Junta continued the policy of colonizing the confiscated lands in Greek Occupied Macedonia. Land was handed over to persons with a proven patriotism for Greece.

1979. 135 more Macedonian place names were renamed in Greek Occupied Macedonia since 1940.

1982. The Greek internal security police urged an intensive campaign to wipe out the remaining Macedonian language and Macedonian consciousness in Greek occupied Macedonia.

LAW 106841 allowed political exiles, who fled during the Greek Civil War and were stripped of their citizenship, to return providing they were Greek by ethnic origin. The same rights were denied to Macedonian political exiles born in Greek occupied Macedonia.

1985. DECREE 1540 stated that political exiles, provided they were Greeks by ethnic origin, who fled during Civil War were allowed to reclaim confiscated lands. The same rights were denied to Macedonian exiles who were born in Greek occupied Macedonia.

In the 1990s Greece made every effort possible to block the formation of the Republic of Macedonia.


The world is becoming a small place and in order to achieve peace and harmony, exclusion, oppression and discrimination must end. I believe that Europe is on the right track in its support for human and minority rights. Greece must also recognize her past mistakes and make amends to the Macedonian people. If history has taught us anything, it has taught us that there is no peace and harmony as long as there is exclusion, exploitation and oppression.

For the unbelievers and for those who think that the "Greeks can do no wrong", I offer you the following books, written in Greek by Greek authors;

1. If you wish to know more about Karavangelis' terrorist actions in Macedonia read his biography (the original version) "Arheio Makedonikou Agona, Pinelopis Delta, Apomnimoneymata, Germanou Karavaggeli, Georgiou Dikonymou Makri, Panagioti Papatzanetea". By his own accounts and through his bragging you will learn what an upstanding religious figure, a Bishop no less, he was and how many people he had killed for the good of his country and for Hellenism.

2. If you wish to learn what the Greeks did in Macedonia from 1903 to 1905 during and around the time of the Ilinden Uprising, read the book "Ellinikos Antimakedonikos Agonas, Apo to Ilinten Sto Zangoritsani (1903 - 1905), Megali Popeza, 1998" by Dimitris Lithoxoou.

3. For the lady who told me to "be ashamed for writing such lies" and for the gentlemen who asked me "are there no ends that you Skopians will go to propagate your propaganda and attempt to steal our Greek Heritage?" I offer you this two volume book. "Istoria Tis Makronisou, Meros Proto, Meros Deftero, Athina 1966" by Nikou Margari.

4. For those of you who do not believe Macedonians exist and therefore no Macedonian language exists, I offer you this book. "I Apagorevmeni Glossa, Kratiki Katastoli ton Slavikon Stis Eliniki Makedonia, Mavri Lista, Athina 2000" by Tasos Kostopoulos.

On a more personal note!

As a result of distributing this article series on the Internet I received a fair number of comments both positive and negative. Your comments were well appreciated.

While your positive comments gave me the encouragement to continue to write, your negative comments reminded me why I started writing in the first place. Thank you.

For those of you who have referred to me as Skopian or an agent of Skopie, I would like to set the record straight.


I am not Skopian, have never been to Skopie or to the Republic of Macedonia.


I am a Greek Citizen of Macedonian descent.


You can't just turn a blind eye and assume Greece is problem free and that people like me don't exist or are agents working for someone else.

Unlike many of you, I have found the truth that I am a Macedonian and not a Greek and have accepted it. I know who I am and no longer wish to live a lie for the sake of propagating more lies.

On the subject of the Greeks calling Macedonians "Albanian half-breeds", "Gypsies" and "Bulgars", you speak as if those people are not human. Calling them derogatory names does not change them from who they are. By doing so you only expose your own contempt for those people that think differently than you. In democratic societies like Canada we have laws against such practices.

And finally, I would like to take the opportunity to thank everyone for showing interest in the series of articles and for providing me with your comments.

In the near future, I will be starting a new series of articles on Macedonia, which will cover the period from ancient times up to the 19th century. Again as always, I will strive to provide you with an objective and unbiased analysis of the historic events with the aim of countering the Greek position on Macedonia and setting the record straight.


H.G. Wells An Illustrated Short History of the World

A. Michael Radin IMRO and the Macedonian Question, Kultura

The University of Cyril and Methodius DOCUMENTS of the Struggle of the Macedonian People for Independence and a Nation-State Volumes I & II

The World Book Encyclopedia

Vasil Bogov Macedonian Revelation Historical Documents rock and shatter Modern Political Ideology

H. N. Brailsford Macedonia Its Races and their Future, Arno Press, New York 1971

Peter Mackridge The Modern Greek Language A Descriptive Analysis of Standard Modern Greek, Oxford 1985

The National Geographic Magazine, November 1925 History's Greatest Trek by Melville Chater

David Holden Greece Without Columns, The Making of Modern Greeks J. B. Lippincott, Philadelphia & New York

R. Auty Handbook of Old Church Slavonic, Texts and Glossary University of London

Rev. Dr. Charles Francis Potter The Lost Years of Jesus Revealed

Douglas Dakin, M.A., Ph.D. The Greek Struggle in Macedonia 1897 - 1913 Institute for Balkan Studies, Salonika 1966

Arnold J. Toynbee A Study of History, Oxford 1975

David Thomson Europe Since Napoleon, Pelican

George Macaulay Trevelyan British History in the Nineteenth Century (1782 - 1901) Longmans 1927

Richard Clogg The Struggle for Greek Independence Essays to mark 150th anniversary of the Greek War of Independence Archon 1973

Giorgio Nurigiani Macedonia of Yesterday and Today Teleuropa, 1967

Kita Sapurma & Pandora Petkovska Children of the Bird Goddess Pollitecon

Fred A. Reed Salonica Terminus Travels into the Balkan Nightmare Talonbooks, 1996

John Shea Macedonia and Greece The Struggle to Define a New Balkan Nation McFarland

Anastasia N. Karakasidou Fields of Wheat, Hills of Blood Passage to Nationhood in Greek Macedonia, 1870 - 1990 Chicago

Loring M. Danforth The Macedonian Conflict Ethnic Nationalism in a Transnational World Princeton University

Vladimir Ortakovski Minorities in the Balkans Transnational

D. Fishwick, B. Wilkinson, J. C. Cairns The Foundations of the West Clarke, Irwin

Scott Taylor Diary of an unCivil War The Violent Aftermath of the Kosovo Conflict

Felix Gilbert The End of the European Era, 1890 to the Present Institute for advanced Study W.W. Norton & Company Inc New York

Barbara Jelavich History of the Balkans, Twentieth Century

The Marshall Cavendish Illustrated Encyclopedia of World War II Volume 4

Benefit Society Oshchima 75th Anniversary 1907-1982 Toronto-Canada

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