Recovering Macedonia 1 - Expiration of the Bucharest Treaty of 1913

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Recovering Macedonia Expiration of the Bucharest Treaty of 1913

Part 1 - Introduction

By Risto Stefov

October, 2005


It has been almost a century since Macedonia was invaded, occupied and partitioned by Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria and to this day Greece and Bulgaria have done nothing to address the needs and rights of the Macedonian people. In fact Greece and Bulgaria have not only ignored the Macedonian people living in their States, but they have done everything they can to denationalize and extinguish them and all that is Macedonian.

Ever since the breakup of the Ottoman Empire, Macedonians have been struggling to assert their identity and to this day Greece and Bulgaria are doing everything they can to stop them. Why?

Why haven't Macedonians succeeded in gaining recognition and taking their rightful place in this world? Why do Greece, Bulgaria and to some extent Albania and Serbia oppose Macedonia's recognition?

The Macedonians only want back what is already theirs. Macedonians have never made unreasonable or outrageous demands yet they still have not succeeded in making any gains. Why not? Why haven't Greece and Bulgaria addressed the Macedonian question? Why haven't outside criticisms prompted Greece and Bulgaria to recognize the Macedonian minorities?

To adequately tackle these issues we need to go as far back as the breakup of the Ottoman Empire and explore the political climate and circumstances under which the successor States, specifically Greece and Bulgaria were created. Who were the architects of these States and what purpose did they have in mind for them when they were created? Why were Macedonians denied the right to exist in spite of their long history, heroic struggles and desire to create a Macedonian State?

Greece was a multicultural, multiethnic state at its inception in 1829 but instead of embracing its true and rich heritage, it opted for something unreal, mythical and bizarre. Why did modern Greece, a multiethnic Christian State abandon its true roots and instead opt to adopt a 2,500 year old dead culture?

If Macedonia simultaneously belonged to Greece, Bulgaria and Serbia, as each claimed, why did they then agree to partition it? Why did they sign the 1913 Treaty of Bucharest agreeing to Macedonia's partition without any signs of protest?

To this day Greece and Bulgaria have done nothing to inform their citizens of the truth about Macedonia. Instead they continue to lie and deceive them maintaining that Macedonians don't exist. Worse, they label Macedonians as criminals and call them thieves for wanting back what is theirs.

The term "Macedonia" when used in this series will mean "Ethno-Graphic" or "Geographic" Macedonia. The part of Macedonia occupied by Greece in 1913 will be referred to as "Greek Occupied Macedonia". The part of Macedonia occupied in 1913 by Bulgaria will be referred to as "Bulgarian Occupied Macedonia". The part of Macedonia occupied in 1913 by Serbia and declared its independence in 1991, will be referred to as "Republic of Macedonia". The part of Macedonia given to Albania in 1919 will be referred to as "Albanian Occupied Macedonia".

The Macedonian (Macedonian peoples') position regarding the Macedonian question

There is no Macedonian in this world today who does not want to see Macedonia reunited. Most Macedonians however are realists and are willing to accept less if given a chance. For starters they would like to see the Macedonian minorities in Greece, Bulgaria and Albania gain recognition with full rights and privileges. Macedonians want the Macedonian minorities in Greece, Bulgaria and Albania to enjoy the same rights and privileges that the Albanian and other minorities enjoys in the Republic of Macedonia. The majority of Macedonians want the Republic of Macedonia to join NATO for security purposes to protect its integrity in order to create political stability and attract investment and economic growth. All Macedonians, including those in the Diaspora, want the Republic of Macedonia to join the EU under its constitutional name. Most Macedonians living in the Republic of Macedonia want to join the EU for economic opportunities. Macedonians originally from Greek and Bulgarian occupied Macedonia, who now live in the Diaspora, want Greece to recognize all Macedonians as Macedonian. Those Macedonians who were stripped of their Greek citizenship because they declared themselves Macedonian want to have their citizenship reinstated. Macedonians exiled from Greece would like to be recognized as Macedonians and their Greek citizenship along with their homes and properties returned. Macedonians living inside Greece and Bulgaria want to be recognized as Macedonians with full rights and privileges.

Macedonians expect Greece, Bulgaria and Serbia to admit to and take responsibility for atrocities their Governments committed against civilians in Macedonia during the two Balkan wars.

Macedonians expect Greece to admit to and take responsibility for evicting large numbers of civilians, including the refugee children, from Greek Occupied Macedonia during the Greek Civil War.

The Macedonian position is very clear and very simple;

1. We simply want to be acknowledged for who we are, Macedonians. 2. We want to be given back what was taken from us; our homes, lands, citizenship and our dignity. 3. We want those who did harm to us in the past to acknowledge their wrongdoing and take responsibility for it.

The Greek (Greek State) position regarding the Macedonian question

Even since 1878 when it became evident that the Great Powers would not allow Macedonia to gain its independence from the Ottoman Empire, plans were made to partition Macedonia. Since then Greece, Bulgaria and Serbia refused to recognize the Macedonian identity.

Since then the Greek position has been that Macedonians do not exist. Census statistics produced in the past have never shown Macedonians to have ever lived in Greek occupied Macedonia.

Ever since Macedonia's invasion, occupation and partition, Greece, without acknowledging the Macedonian identity, has persecuted Macedonians. Those that Greece could not Hellenize, it forcible evicted or outright murdered under the guise that they were Bulgars or Slavs not worthy of living on Greek soil.

With regards to history, the Greek position is that the ancient Macedonians were Greek and the modern Macedonians are not really Macedonians but Slavs. Greece, in spite of being a signatory to the 1913 Treaty of Bucharest, does not acknowledge the invasion, occupation and partition of Macedonia. The violent and forcible acquisition of Macedonian territory is justified on the basis that the ancient Macedonians 2,300 years ago were Greek and therefore Macedonian lands belong to Greece.

The Greek position is very clear and simple;

1. Macedonians do not exist. 2. Greece is a racially homogenous State and has no minorities. 3. The name Macedonia is Greek and the Slavs can't have it.

The Bulgarian (Bulgarian State) position regarding the Macedonian question

The Bulgarian position is also very clear and simple;

1. Macedonians do not exist. 2. Macedonia is a province of Greater Bulgaria. 3. The people living in Macedonia (the Macedonians) are Bulgarians.

Neither the Greek nor the Bulgarian State has changed its position since these positions were established in the last quarter of the 19th century. (Bulgaria changed its position and did recognize the Macedonian nation for a brief period after World War II, but quickly reverted back to its old position).

So why are Greece and Bulgaria refusing to budge on their positions?

So far Macedonians have pleaded their case, mainly through criticisms, to successive Greek and Bulgarian Governments and most recently to European and World institutions. This unfortunately has not worked for various reasons.

1. Neither Greece nor Bulgaria would admit to having minorities living in their respective states so world institutions, in the way international laws have been established, have no case against them. Corrective change must come from within. 2. Macedonian communities, particularly those living inside Greece and Bulgaria, because of repressive measures imposed on them by their governments have not yet mustered the necessary will to force change from within. 3. Greek and Bulgarian Governments do not have the will on their own to affect change. Governments are elected on the basis of status quo and are not known for implementing revolutionary changes. Besides, these same Governments are responsible for creating the mess to begin with. To change would mean to admit to having made errors. How are the Greek and Bulgarian Governments going to fare if they, after lying to their voters for years, now admit that Macedonians do exist?

What can be done to break the impasse?

Obviously what has been done to date has not worked. Therefore a new approach is needed.

I don't have all the answers and I do welcome your ideas. I want to hear from the Greek and Bulgarian communities who believe Macedonians have a future in the Balkans. I know you exist and I know you have been silent on the issue. It is now time to start building bridges. Your comments and questions are welcome.

I believe there is a future for Macedonians in Greece and Bulgaria. I also believe Macedonia will be re-united. Macedonian people have proven themselves to be tolerant and able to peacefully co-exist with other people. Greece and Bulgaria on the other hand have chosen intolerance, oppression and violence as a way of life.

If Macedonians have shown anything is how to live in harmony with other people. Even at the worst of times, Macedonians never gave up believing that all people can live as equals. Was it not Gotse Delchev, a Macedonian revolutionary hero from the 1903 Macedonian Ilinden uprising against the Turks, who said, "I conceive the world only as a field of cultural competition among nations?" And what about the Republic of Macedonia, is there another country in the Balkans where minorities enjoy such rights?

Greek and Bulgarian denial of the existence of Macedonians, in view of the existence of a Macedonian State and a large and active Macedonian Diaspora, not only defies logic but goes against the European grain. Is it not Europe who wants to give minorities their rights? Do Greece and Bulgaria, in view of the European agenda, really believe they will have lasting peace by oppressing and denying Macedonians and other minorities their rights?

Greeks and Bulgarians must understand that their survival does not depend on oppressing minorities and using violence to keep the peace. They must also understand that it is this inequality and oppression of minorities that causes tension, hatred and conflict. We don't all have to be Greeks or Bulgarians to live peacefully together. We can just as easily live together in harmony as Macedonians, Greeks, Bulgarians, Albanians, etc. if we so chose. European businessmen want to do business in Europe without problems. They have recognized the value of "free societies" and that is precisely why they want minorities to be given their rights. By denying their minorities their rights Greek and Bulgarian Governments are in fact working against the European agenda which in the long term will harm their states and their people.

It is well documented that Greece and Bulgaria have committed atrocities in Macedonia and those states sooner or later will face the consequences and will pay for their crimes. Denying the existence of Macedonians does not excuse them for what they did. As far as I can tell, committing atrocities against people is still a punishable crime under international law. Isn't that what the Haig is all about?

No one has the right to decide the Macedonian peoples' destiny but the Macedonians themselves. Granted nothing can be done these days without Great Power intervention, but if the Great Powers are serious and support the laws they have enacted, especially those that govern human rights, then Macedonians should have no problem shaping their own destiny, writing their own history and calling themselves what they truly are, Macedonians.

Macedonians have a big job ahead of them. In addition to learning about themselves, their history, their heritage and their right to exist in this world, they must also learn to tell every Greek, every Bulgarian and every other person in this world the truth about themselves and about Macedonia. There is a treaty out there, the 1913 Treaty of Bucharest which Greece, Bulgaria and Serbia signed to divide and occupy Macedonia without our consent. Macedonia is our country and we want it back.

Many Macedonians believe the 1913 Treaty of Bucharest will expire in 2012 at which time it will reopen. This time the Macedonians will be there to make sure it is done right.

The job of getting things to move forward largely rests with the Macedonian Diaspora. The vast majority of Macedonian people in the Diaspora are descendants of those Macedonians who were forcibly evicted from Greece. They have cause and legitimacy to challenge the Greek State not only to recover their own properties, culture and identity, but also to help those who are still oppressed and are unable to help themselves. Macedonians in the Diaspora have the freedom and the resources necessary to do the job which their compatriots in Greece and Bulgaria can't.

Besides interpreting the details of the 1913 Treaty of Bucharest, this series of articles will be dedicated to finding a solution to the Macedonian question. In doing so it will use historical evidence to expose the lies, deception and myths perpetrated by the Great Powers, Greece and Bulgaria to keep the Macedonian people down and rob them of their heritage and their future.

To be continued...

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