Recovering Macedonia 10 - Denationalizing the Macedonians in Greece
Recovering Macedonia Expiration of the Bucharest Treaty of 1913
Part 10 - Denationalizing the Macedonians in Greece
[Macedonia will remain occupied as long as the Macedonian people are unrecognized, abused and made to feel like strangers on their own native lands. It is a well known fact that Macedonia was invaded, occupied and illegally partitioned by Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria in 1912-1913 against the wishes of the Macedonian people. The Serbian occupied part, now known as the Republic of Macedonia gained its independence in 1991 and is today a sovereign state while the parts annexed by Greece and Bulgaria remain occupied.]
Even before Greece invaded, occupied and annexed 51% of Macedonian territories, it had begun its denationalization process converting Macedonians into Greeks. By denationalization I mean, indoctrinating people into believing that they were Greeks related to the so called "Ancient Greeks" the people that live south of Mount Olympus two and a half millenniums ago. Greece was determined to gain Macedonian territories by proving to the world that "Greeks" lived in Macedonia and by rights Macedonian territories belonged to Greece. Unlike today where Greece is indoctrinating people into believing that Greek-Macedonians are related to the Ancient Macedonians. In those days the Greek State was making claims that Macedonians did not exist and only "Greeks", "Slavs" (Serbians and Bulgarians), Turks, Albanians, Vlachs, Roma and Jews lived in Macedonia.
Before the formation of the Bulgarian state, Greece took it upon itself to view all Orthodox Christians as "Greeks" on account that they all were affiliated with the Patriarch Church. But after Bulgaria became a country in 1878 and established the Exarchate Church it challenged the Greek views and Greece backed off.
After the establishment of the foreign Churches (Greek, Bulgarian and Serbian) inside Macedonia and in the absence of a Macedonian Church, the three competing states began to divide the Macedonian people by affiliation to their Church. In other words, according to Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria, ethnic Macedonians affiliated with the Greek Patriarchate Church would be counted as Greeks, ethnic Macedonians affiliated with the Bulgarian Exarchate Church would be counted as Bulgarians and ethnic Macedonians affiliated with the Serbian Patriarchate Church would be counted as Serbians. Since there was no official or legal Macedonian Church in Macedonia (the Ottoman authorities on the advice of the other Orthodox Churches inside Macedonia would not approve of one) there were no Macedonians to be counted as Macedonians inside Macedonia.
It was by this method that the demographic in Macedonia was established and published into various statistics in the late 19th and early 20th century.
I believe Greece is still using this method to this day to count people in its state. How else does one explain the Greek demographic of 98% "Pure Greek" and 2% "Muslim Greeks"?
Demographic statistics released by Greek authorities before the invasion, occupation and partition of Macedonia in 1912, 1913, were based exclusively on Church affiliations. All Macedonians affiliated with the Greek Patriarchate Church were counted as "Greeks" even though they were not "ethnic Greeks". The fact that there were virtually no "ethnic Greeks" living in Macedonia before 1912 did not stop Greece from showing numbers as high as 40% to 50%. Even the massive expulsions carried out between 1912 and 1928 were based strictly on religion and "Church affiliation" and NOT on ethnicities.
During the second Balkan War Greece initiated a massive denationalization program to eradicate everything Macedonian which began with the ethnic cleansing of entire towns and villages in South Central Macedonia (Kukush, Doiran, Demir-Hisar and Serres).
The criminal activities perpetrated by the invading Greek, Serbian and Bulgarian armies were brought to world attention which prompted the Carnegie Endowment Commission to investigate.
Even though all three States, Greece, Bulgaria and Serbia committed atrocities against the Macedonian people during the 1912 and 1913 Balkan Wars, for our purpose here we will only focus on the Greeks.
The Carnegie Endowment Commission was dispatched from Paris on August 2nd, 1913, shortly before the end of the second Balkan War and returned to Paris nearly eight weeks later, on September 28th. In spite of opposition from the Greek government, the commission arrived in time to witness much of the war's aftermath and record most accounts while they were still fresh in people's minds. The commission's findings were compiled and released in 1914.
In a statement dated February 22, 1914, Carnegie Endowment Acting Director Nicholas Murray Butler said:
"The circumstances which attended the Balkan wars of 1912 and 1913 were of such character as to fix upon them the attention of the civilized world. The conflicting reports as to what actually occurred before and during these wars, together with the persistent rumors often supported by specific and detailed statements as to violations of the laws of war by the several combatants, made it important that an impartial and exhaustive examination should be made of this entire episode in contemporary history. The purpose of such an impartial examination by an independent authority was to inform public opinion and to make plain just what is or may be involved in an international war carried on under modern conditions. If the minds of men can be turned even for a short time away from passion, from race antagonism and from national aggrandizement to a contemplation of the individual and national losses due to war and to the shocking horrors which modern warfare entails, a step and by no means a short one, will have been taken toward the substitution of justice for force in the settlement of international differences.
It was with this motive and for this purpose that the Division of Intercourse and Education of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Constituted in July, 1913, an International Commission of Inquiry to study the recent Balkan wars and to visit the actual scenes where fighting had taken place and the territory which had been devastated. The presidency of this International Commission of Inquiry was entrusted to Baron d'Estournelles de Constant, Senator of France, who had represented his country at the First and Second Hague Conferences of 1899 and of 1907, and who as President Fondateur of the Conciliation lnternationale, has labored so long and so effectively to bring the various nations of the world into closer and more sympathetic relations. With Baron d'Estournelles de Constant there were associated men of the highest standing, representing different nationalities, who were able to bring to this important task large experience and broad sympathy.
The result of the work of the International Commission of Inquiry is contained in the following report. This report, which has been written without prejudice and without partisanship, is respectfully commended to the attention of the governments, the people and the press of the civilized world. To those who so generously participated in its preparation as members of the International Commission of Inquiry, the Trustees of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace offer an expression of grateful thanks." (Preface) George F. Kennan. "The Other Balkan Wars"
The commission reported that the atrocities committed by the Greek army at Kukush took place on July 4, 1913. The town was a flourishing community of 13,000 people, the centre of an exclusively Slavonic-speaking area which the Greek army occupied and burned to the ground.
European observers confirmed that Greek soldiers evicted occupants from their homes which they then looted and burned down. It was estimated that in Kukush alone the Greek army burnt down forty villages and 4,725 houses. The commission's report provides the names of the burned down villages and respective numbers of houses in each that were destroyed.
The commission was also informed and given the names of seventy-four people, mostly women and eleven children, who were murdered by the Greek soldiers. It was estimated that more than 100,000 Macedonians became refugees and fled the town. No accounts were given regarding their losses of life and property.
On July 6, 1913 approximately four thousand refugees attempting to flee, accidentally ran into three hundred Greek cavalrymen. Unfortunately, following their surrender, the Greeks picked out sixty men and took them off to a nearby forest and had them murdered. Eye witnesses reported that Greek soldiers were seen the next day running rampant killing, raping and robbing people. The commission was unable to establish the exact number of refugees slain by the Greek army on site but according to witnesses the number was no less than 365 people.
One European eye witness informed the commission that after the Greek army entered Gevgelija it executed two hundred civilians.
Most atrocities committed by the Greek army were corroborated by the soldiers themselves in letters they sent home to their relatives. A captured mailbag revealed the reality of horrors perpetrated against the Macedonian civilian population. According to one soldier's account "This war has been very painful. We have burnt all the villages abandoned by the Bulgarians [Macedonians affiliated with the Exarchate Church]. They burn the Greek villages [Macedonian villages affiliated with the Patriarchate Church] and we the Bulgarian [Macedonian villages affiliated with the Exarchate Church]. They massacred, we massacred and against all those of that dishonest nation, who fell into our hands, the Mannlicher rifle has done its work. Of the 1,200 prisoners we took at Nigrita, only forty-one remain in the prisons, and everywhere we have been, we have not left a single root of this race."
One hundred and sixty villages and no less than sixteen thousand houses were burned by the Greeks in the Second Balkan War. No attempt was ever made to find out how many civilians were tortured, raped and murdered and how many thousands were left homeless.
It is important to note at this point that the Macedonian people did not raise arms against the invading allied armies (Greek, Serbian and Bulgarian). Instead of opposing them, the Macedonians welcomed the allied armies and in fact helped them evict the Turkish forces from Macedonia.
The atrocities committed against the civilian population in Macedonia including the burning of villages was simply a cold act of genocide perpetrated to eradicate the Macedonian civilian population in order to make room for Greek colonization.
Unfortunately for the Macedonian people, this was only the beginning. No sooner than the invading armies established their spheres of influence and partitioned Macedonia with their imposed artificial and illegal borders, the process of denationalization was accelerated. First came the demands for loyalty to the new occupiers. Macedonians affiliated with the Exarchate Church were given twenty-four hours to "take what they can carry" and leave their lands. "This is Greece now and there is no place for Bulgarians here." Those who remained were forced to swear loyalty to the Greek State. Anyone refusing to take the loyalty oath was either executed, as an example of what would happen to those disloyal, or evicted from the country. To explain the mass evacuations, Greek officials claimed that the inhabitants of Macedonia left by choice or became Greek by choice. The truth is no one was given any choice at all.
Thousands of Greek publicists began to fill the world with their shouting about the essentially Greek character of the populations of their newly occupied territory. The Greek newspapers began to write about a Macedonia entirely populated by Greeks and the fact that no-one spoke Greek was explained by calling the people 'Bulgaro-phone Greeks'. The Greek army when entering villages and encountering Macedonians speaking Macedonian, discouraged them from doing so by crying out. "Why are you talking Bulgarian, this is Greece and you must speak Greek now." All "Slavic" language schools and churches were closed and teachers and priests were expelled. Use of the Macedonian language and Macedonian names were forbidden and Macedonians were referred to as Bulgarians, Serbians or natives.
After the Treaty of Bucharest was signed on August 10, 1913 Macedonia's partition was formalized and the Greek Government set up a "Military Administration" to govern its new acquisition which Greece named "New Territories". Then an influx of administrators, educators, police, etc. were sent from Greece to administer it. Among other things, the first order of business was to "Hellenize the New Lands".
In 1917 Greece passed LAW 1051 inaugurating new administrative jurisdictions for governing its newly acquired Macedonian lands.
In 1919 by the Treaty of Versailles, Britain and France ratified the principles of the Bucharest Treaty thus endorsing Macedonia's partition. This gave Greece the signal it needed to pursue forced expulsion, continue its policy of denationalizing the Macedonians and begin a mass colonization of the Macedonian territories by transplanting "potential Greeks".
What was surprising, especially to the Balkan delegation, was the raising of the Macedonian question by Italy. On July 10, 1919, Italy along with the USA made a proposal to the "Committee for the Formation of New States" for Macedonian autonomy. France flatly opposed the motion while Britain proposed establishing a five-year Macedonian Commissary under the auspices of the League of Nations. Greece and Serbia, by refusing to acknowledge the existence of a Macedonian question, literally killed the motion.
Another item that came out of Versailles was Article 51, the League of Nations' code to "protect national minorities". Article 51 of the Treaty of Versailles espouses equality of civil rights, education, language and religion for all national minorities. Unfortunately, article 51 was never implemented by the Balkan States or enforced by the League of Nations which Greece and Bulgaria, to this day, violate and ignore.
It is interesting to note that on September 29, 1924 Greece signed an agreement with Bulgaria declaring that the Macedonians in Greece were Bulgarians. Not to disappoint the Serbians, when they found out about this, the Greeks changed their mind and on August 17, 1926 declared that the Macedonians in Greece were in reality, Serbs.
In 1920 the Greek Ministry Of Internal Affairs publishes a booklet "Advice On The Change Of The Names Of Municipalities And Villages" in Greek occupied Macedonia.
From 1918 to 1925, Greek authorities changed 76 Macedonian names of villages and towns to Greek ones.
"By law promulgated on November 21, 1926, all place names (toponymia) were Hellenized; that is the names of cities, villages, rivers and mountains were discarded and Greek names put in their place. At the same time the Macedonians were forced to change their first and surnames; every Macedonian surname had to end in 'os', 'es', or 'poulos'. The news of these acts and the new, official Greek names were published in the Greek government daily 'Efimeris tis Kiverniseos no. 322 and 324 of November 21 and 23, 1926. The requirements to use these Greek names is officially binding to this day. All evidence of the Macedonian language was compulsorily removed from churches, monuments, archeological finds and cemeteries. Slavonic church or secular literature was seized and burned. The use of the Macedonian language was strictly forbidden also in personal communication between parents and children, among villagers, at weddings and work parties, and in burial rituals." (Page 109, John Shea, Macedonia and Greece, The Struggle to Define a New Balkan Nation)
The act of forbidding the use of the Macedonian language in Greece is best illustrated by an example of how it was implemented in the Township of Assarios (Giuvezna). Here is a quote from Karakasidou's book Fields of Wheat, Hills of Blood.
"[We] listened to the president articulate to the council that in accordance with the decision [#122770] of Mr. Minister, General Governor of Macedonia, all municipal and township councils would forbid, through [administrative] decisions, the speaking of other idioms of obsolete languages within the area of their jurisdiction for the reconstitution of a universal language and our national glory. [The president] suggested that [the] speaking of different idioms, foreign [languages] and our language in an impure or obsolete manner in the area of the township of Assirios would be forbidden. Assirios Township Decision No. 134, 13 December 1936." (Page 162, Anastasia Karakasidou, Fields of Wheat, Hills of Blood)
By 1928, 1,497 Macedonian place-names in Greek occupied Macedonia were Hellenized (LAW 4096) and all Cyrillic inscriptions found in churches, on tombstones and icons were destroyed (or overwritten) prompting English Journalist V. Hild to say, "The Greeks do not only persecute living Slavs (Macedonians)..., but they even persecute dead ones. They do not leave them in peace even in the graves. They erase the Slavonic inscriptions on the headstones, remove the bones and burn them."
In the years following World War I, the Macedonian people underwent extensive measures of systematic denationalization. The applications of these "denationalization schemes" were so extensive and aggressively pursued that in the long term they eroded the will of the Macedonian people to resist.
In Greece, in 1929 during the rule of Elepterios Venizelos, a legal act was issued 'On the protection of public order'. In line with this Act each demand for nationality rights is regarded as high treason. This law is still in force.
On December 18, 1936, Metaxas' dictatorial government issued a legal Act 'On the activity against state security' on the strength of which thousands of Macedonians were arrested, imprisoned, expelled or exiled (EXORIA) on arid, inhospitable Greek islands, where many perished. Their crime? Being ethnic Macedonian by birth.
LAW 6429 was passed to reinforce Law 4096 on the Hellenization of toponyms and DECREE 87 was enacted to accelerate the denationalization of Macedonians. The Greek ministry of Education sent "Specially trained" instructors to accelerate the "conversion to Greek" language.
On September 7, 1938 legal Act No. 2366 was issued banning the use of the Macedonian language. All Macedonian localities were flooded with posters: 'Speak Greek'. Evening schools were opened in which adult Macedonians were taught Greek. Not a single Macedonian school functioned at the time or ever since.
Many Macedonians were fined, beaten and jailed for speaking Macedonian. Adults and school children alike were further humiliated by being forced to drink castor oil when caught speaking Macedonian. LAW 1418 was enacted to reinforce previous laws on renaming peoples' names and toponyms.
While there were some prospects for basic human rights for the Macedonian people in the Greek State in the early 1920's, those prospects died as Greece tightened its grip on Macedonia by implementing more racist assimilation policies. If that was not enough, on December 18, 1936 the Greek Government issued a legal act concerning, "Activities Against State Security". By this act thousands of Macedonians were arrested, imprisoned and expelled from their homeland.
In 1938 Australian author Bert Birtles in his book "Exiles in the Aegean" wrote, "In the name of 'Hellenization' these people (Macedonians) are being persecuted continually and arrested for the most fantastic reasons. Metaxa's way of inculcating the proper nationalist spirit among them has been to change all the native place-names into Greek and to forbid use of the native language. For displaying the slightest resistance to the edict-for this too is a danger to the security of the State-peasants and villagers have been exiled without trial." (Page 112, John Shea, Macedonia and Greece The Struggle to Define a New Balkan Nation)
In 1940 39 more place-names were Hellenized since 1929. In 1945 LAW 697 was enacted introducing more regulations on renaming toponyms.
The Greek Government in Greek occupied Macedonia worked closely with local collaborators and enlisted, from the Macedonian population, only those who could be proven trustworthy. The collaborators worked hard to identify all those who were sympathetic to the Partisans and reported on their activities on a regular basis. Anyone reported aiding the Partisans was severely punished and sometimes executed. In the spring of 1947 all those who were blacklisted were rounded up, arrested and locked up in the Lerin jails. Those accused of aiding the Partisans were taken out and executed. The rest, after spending one hundred days in jail without trial, were sent to various concentration camps in the most desolate Greek Islands where they were kept anywhere from 2 to 5 year.
I want to mention something very important here because I believe the Greek Government, even before the commencement of the Greek civil war, had plans "to deal with the Macedonians in Greece". In 1947, during the Greek civil war, the legal act L-2 was issued. This meant that all those who left Greece without the consent of the Greek government were stripped of their Greek citizenship and banned from returning to that country. The law applied to Greeks and Macedonians, but in its modernized version the act is binding only on Macedonians. It prevents Macedonians, but not former Communist Greeks who fought against the winning side from returning to Greece and reclaiming property. On January 20, 1948, the legal act M was issued. This allowed the Greek government to confiscate the property of those who were stripped of their citizenship. The law was updated in 1985 to exclude Greeks, but still binding on Macedonians
Clearly acts L-2 and M were designed to work against the interest of the Macedonian people. Even innocent Macedonians who left before the Civil War were not allowed to return. The question now is "What was Greece planning to do with the Macedonians?" The way acts L-2 and M were enforced over the years brings another question to mind. If there were no Macedonians living in Greece, as the Greek state claims, then what ethnicity were these people the Greek Government was refusing to allow back? Why is it that Greek law makes the distinction between Macedonians and Greeks when it suits Greece but not when it benefits the Macedonians?
By the end of 1947 battles were raging everywhere in Greece and the war was slowly moving north into Macedonia. Clearly this was a "Greek War", yet again the Macedonian population was being sucked into it. The heavily armed Greek air force and mechanized artillery gained control of most cities and main roads. The Partisans were literally trapped and continued their strictly defensive campaigns mainly from the mountains Vicho and Gramos.
As the situation became critical, both sides stepped up their recruitment campaigns and again were drawing from the same population. The Partisans could no longer count on volunteers alone and began to enlist fighters by force and drafted anyone they could get their hands on, male or female. In addition to support roles, women were now armed and given combat duties. They fought alongside the men against the well-trained, well-disciplined and heavily armed Greek Army. Such was the fate of the Macedonian women, most of whom were taken by force to fight someone else's war.
As the war intensified the Greek air force regularly bombed Macedonian villages putting the civilian population, including children, in danger. In the spring of 1948, to save the children, a temporary evacuation program was introduced and implemented on a voluntary basis. It is estimated that about 28,000 children from the ages of 2 to 14 were rounded up and taken across the border into Yugoslavia. From there they were sent to various Eastern Block countries.
Again, I want to point out that the evacuation program was sponsored and organized by the Greek Partisan Leadership which was fully versed in "Greek Law" (act L-2). Yet they carried out the children's evacuation program and lied to the trusting mothers that the evacuation was only a temporary measure. Almost all the Macedonian children who were evacuated in 1948 are still not allowed entry into Greece.
Fearing reprisal from the advancing Greek army, in August 1949 waves of refugees left their homes and went to Albania to save themselves. When the war was over Greece did not want them back. As a result they were sent to Eastern Block countries that were willing to take them.
Years later some tried to return but Greece (act L-2) would not allow it. Even innocent Macedonians who did not participate in the conflict, including the evacuated refugee children, were refused entry (again act L-2). Years passed and still they were refused entry again and again. They were not even allowed to visit ailing relatives. Finally in 1985 a repatriation policy was introduced and amnesty was given but only to those of "Greek origin". This again excluded the Macedonians.
After the Greek Civil War ended LAW 3958 was enacted to allow the confiscation of property of those who left Greece and did not return within five years. Villages in Greek occupied Macedonia were forced to swear "LANGUAGE OATHS" to speak only Greek and renounce their mother tongue (MACEDONIAN).
In 1962 DECREE 4234 was enacted to reinforce past laws regarding confiscated properties of political exiles and deny them rights to return.
In 1968 The EUROPEAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS accused Greece of human rights abuses and in 1969 the COUNCIL OF EUROPE declared Greece "undemocratic, illiberal, authoritarian, and oppressive". Greece was forced to resign from the Council of Europe under threats of expulsion. The Military Junta in Greece continued its policy of colonizing the confiscated Macedonian lands and continued to donate Macedonian lands to persons with "proven patriotism" for Greece.
Clogg, Richard. The Struggle for Greek Independence Essays to mark 150th anniversary of the Greek War of Independence. Archon, 1973.
George F. Kennan. "The Other Balkan Wars" A 1913 Carnegie Endowment Inquiry in Retrospect with a New Introduction and Reflections on the Present Conflict. Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment For International Peace, 1993.
Karakasidou, Anastasia N. Fields of Wheat, Hills of Blood. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1997.
Shea, John. Macedonia and Greece The Struggle to Define a New Balkan Nation. London: McFarland & Company Inc., 1997.
Stefou, Chris. History of the Macedonian People from Ancient times to the Present. Toronto: Risto Stefov publications, 2005
What Europe has Forgotten: The Struggle of the Aegean Macedonians, A Report by the Association of the Macedonians in Poland)
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