The Geopolitics Of The Macedonian Ethnogenesis

“The Balkan oasis of peace” was an epithet given to Yugoslav Macedonia throughout the bloody destruction of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia within the 1990s. Nonetheless, it appears a lot much less convincing immediately, than twenty-five years in the past as Europe is questioning if the territory of ex-Yugoslav Macedonia can develop into the final domino within the domino-effect of the collapse of the previous Yugoslav federation[1] taking two elementary causes: “Albanian Query” in Macedonia, and Macedonia’s political-diplomatic dispute with neighboring Greece.

The identify “Macedonia” immediately belongs to 2 impartial states: Greece and Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). A reminiscence of the political-military achievements of Macedon kings Philip II and Alexander the Nice live in political narratives in each international locations who derived nice satisfaction from their self-understood affiliation with the identify Macedonia. Due to this fact, claims by FYROM to the identify Macedonia offend Greek nationwide emotions, since North Greece’s area of Macedonia has equal or much more ethical and historic declare to the title.

Balkan Irredentism

In all probability, the point of interest of Balkan nationalisms that may direct us to correctly perceive the historic evolution of this area to this present day is that national-self-rule was and is the product of each secessionism and irredentism, not like in majority of non-Balkan international locations. Macedonian case on this matter is without doubt one of the typical examples of such phenomena. If we have a look at the Balkan maps of the primary, initially autonomous provinces and later sovereign states, and examine them to their present-day maps we will discover that the primary provinces/states emerged within the 19th century included not more than half the territory these states have immediately. All of East Balkan states have been the product of secessions from the Ottoman Empire, first within the type of autonomous provinces after which as internationally acknowledged impartial states. Nonetheless, from the very starting, they understood themselves as matrix-states (“Piedmont”) with an open irredentist mission to annex all “nationwide” territories within the neighborhood in accordance with self-interpreted “ethnic” and “historic” rights.[2]

The truth that trendy Balkan states adopted the politics of irredentism inevitably led them to ethnic conflicts with the neighbors as within the Balkans, the marked territories focused by one state conflicted with these focused by different states, due to the combined populations and, in lots of circumstances, their lack of a transparent nationwide consciousness in these territories as, as an example, Macedonian case clearly confirms this historic improvement of nationwide politics. Macedonian nationalism is, nonetheless, the final nationalism to have been developed in South-East Europe, within the very finish of the 19th century, in truth, by the creation of the primary Macedonian revolutionary group in Thessaloniki in 1893 by Bulgarian highschool academics. That is immediately a celebrated occasion in FYROM as the start of a Slavo-Macedonian battle for a united national-state of a Larger Macedonia. Right this moment’s FYROM represents, in truth, a historic accident of the 1912−1913 Balkan Wars – a territory which the Kingdom of Serbia acquired in accordance with the 1913 Bucharest Peace Treaty.[3]

The National Institution Museum of the Macedonian Struggle for Statehood
The Nationwide Establishment Museum of the Macedonian Battle for Statehood, Skopje

It’s not true that the concept to create a united Larger Macedonia which ought to embody the so-called Pirin, Aegean and Vardar Macedonia solely exist after 1991 throughout the political framework of some excessive Macedonian nationalists and that official Macedonia’s view acknowledges the inviolability of Bulgaria’s and Greece’s borders and explicitly renounces any territorial claims. We can’t, nonetheless, neglect that such concept was included into an official programme of the ruling political occasion in FYROM within the 1990s (reestablished nationalistic IMRO)[4] and that the 1991 Macedonia’s structure was implicitly talking to this course. Greece and Bulgaria (Serbia to a sure extent too) ought to, due to this fact, concern a territorial risk from neighboring FYROM not less than on the propaganda-diplomatic degree.

Historic (Dis)Continuity and Modern Politics

Each Greek and FYROM historians often and sadly do not make a transparent distinction between historic and trendy/modern occasions in coping with the very delicate query of Slavo-Macedonian and Greek nationwide ethnogenesis. This is without doubt one of the causes of their separate claims to have an unique copyright to the designation “Macedonian”.

Within the paragraphs under, the fundamental viewpoints on Macedonian ethnogenesis by all most sides concerned on this query might be introduced.

Greek Viewpoint

Fashionable Greek intellectuals state that there’s an unbroken historic continuity between historic and trendy Greeks what is way from the reality.[5] Nonetheless, a vital part of this idea of historic continuity is the declare that Vintage Macedon persons are from ethnical perspective, culturally and linguistically a part of the traditional Greek world. This concept is deeply rooted within the official framework of Greek nationwide identification and ethnogenesis. After Greece turned impartial from Ottoman Empire in 1829/1830 Greeks used this idea of historic continuity in an effort to make ethical and political claims to historic Macedon territory and Macedon cultural legacy. Right this moment, the consequences of such claims are clearly seen in Greek perspective to oppose FYROM’s proper to make use of the time period “Macedonia” within the official state-name, to make use of as state-symbols these in relation to Vintage Macedon (as an example, a “Solar of Vergina”), to narrate the identification of FYROM with historic Kingdom of Macedon and to usurp the historical past of Vintage Macedon (as an example, erecting monuments to Philip II and Alexander the Nice, naming public objects and nationwide infrastructure with their names just like the freeway, airport or nationwide stadium in Skopje, and many others.).[6] In different phrases, from a Greek perspective, “Slavs of Skopje” (however by no means “Macedonians”) are “stealing Greek identify”, “embezzling” Greek cultural heritage and “falsifying” Greek historical past.[7] A regular official Greek reply to the query who have been the individuals of Vintage Macedon is: one of many many Greek (Hellenic) tribes who lastly on the time of Philip II and Alexander the Nice turned the unifiers of all Greece (Hellas) (after the Battle of Chaeronea in 338 BC in Beotia/Boeotia, Greece).

Fashionable Greek historiography and ethnology help an concept of the important cultural, linguistic and civilizational Greekness of Vintage Macedon based mostly on linguistic arguments and totally different archaeological materials that are coming from excavations of historic Macedon websites executed after the WWI onward (Vergina, Pella, Philippi, and many others). As a matter of reality, there’s not less than thousand years of steady presence of Greek (Hellenic) tradition on the territory of Vintage Macedon. As well as, the aristocracy of historic Kingdom of Macedon performed a vital position in rooting of Hellenic tradition in Macedonia. These two information are an unbeaten actuality by any goal academician however, on the similar time, each information don’t imply that historic Macedon individuals have been the ethnic Greeks. Nonetheless, certainly, they haven’t been both Slavs, however being Hellenized a number of centuries earlier than Slavs arrived on the Balkans.

Slavo-Macedonian Viewpoint

The declare of historic continuity can also be present in each positions of among the nationalists amongst FYROM’s authorities and in excessive propaganda by Slavo-Macedonian nationalists, particularly by those that live in emigration. They attempt to reveal the continuity between vintage Macedons and trendy Slavo-Macedonians by denying the actual fact that the previous weren’t the Slavs because the later are. Nonetheless, they declare that immediately’s Slavo-Macedonians are direct ethnic descendants of the inhabitants of historic Kingdom of Macedon. For example, we will learn:

Solely these Macedonians who really feel direct descendants of Philip and Alexander in unbroken continuity will stay eternally resistant to the assimilation propagandas of the neighboring states and can by no means betray the Macedonian race

[A programmatic statement of Makedonsko Sonce, the weekly organ of the World Macedonian Congress]

Though that that is simply the opinion of some excessive nationalists (extra average patriots acknowledge the truth that trendy Slavo-Macedonians don’t have any ethnic relation to historic Macedonians as Slavs arrived at Macedonia solely within the sixth century AD[8]), such propaganda strengthens Greek place as extra tutorial and goal. The crux of the matter is that as Greeks declare that the traditional Macedonian tradition is a part of Vintage Greek world, and that trendy Greeks are their direct descendants, it’s for them unattainable that others declare to be in addition to the descendants of the traditional Macedonians.

An concept that trendy Slavo-Macedonians are ethnic descendants of historic Macedon individuals is actually propagated on the expense of Greeks and it turned very strengthened on the first years of FYROM’s independence after 1991[9] with the usurpation of historic Macedon symbols,[10] as an example of the Solar of Vergina – a logo utilized by historic Macedon royal dynasty and located in Macedon King Philip’s tomb in Greece. Furthermore, the brand new FYROM’s authorities went additional in direct frightening Greece and Greeks as on the Republic of Macedonia’s commemorative foreign money was put the picture of the White Tower of the town of Thessaloniki, which is located in Aegean Macedonia of Greece being the second largest metropolis of the nation. For Greeks, it turned fairly clear that their northern neighbor has territorial pretensions on the land of the state of Greece. Such claims have been backed and by each FYROM’s irredentist structure and the programme of the main FYROM’s political occasion – the VMRO-DPMNE (the Inside Macedonian Revolutionary Group – The Democratic Occasion of Macedonian Nationwide Unity), which was preventing for the unification of “all Macedonia” (FYROM, Aegean Macedonia of Greece, Pirin Macedonia of Bulgaria and the land round Pčinja river in Serbia).


Clearly, Athens not solely perceives the (mis)use of such symbols as a “cultural risk” but in addition perceive it as an precise risk to the territorial integrity of Greece. This sense was strengthened by the Article 49 within the structure which was stating that the Republic of Macedonia cares for the standing and rights of Macedonian individuals in neighbouring international locations which Greece noticed as a reference to alleged Macedonian minority in North Greece and, due to this fact, interpreted the article as a territorial risk to this area and Greece’s sovereignty. Furthermore, the maps of a “Larger Macedonia” commonly circulated in FYROM, on which North Greece was included into the so-called “united Macedonia”.[11] All these information are sturdy causes for Greece to be afraid of territorial claims by FYROM regarding Aegean Macedonia that’s about 1/Three of Greece. It needs to be famous that the want to create a “free, united and impartial Macedonia” by “liberating” components of a historical-geographic Macedonia that are “quickly occupied” by Greece and Bulgaria (after the Balkan Wars of 1912−1913), isn’t merely the aim solely by the acute Macedonian nationalists however somewhat has a larger help by the individuals. Nonetheless, extra average Macedonian nationalists (which have the most important affect over FYROM’s political life) formally acknowledge the inviolability of Greek and Bulgarian state-borders and formally reject any territorial claims (irredenta).[12] Nonetheless, they demand the popularity of Macedonian minority in Greece and Bulgaria by these international locations and that it needs to be granted the fundamental minority rights which Macedonians deserve in accordance with the worldwide norms and requirements.[13]

This demand is, in truth, the basic apple of discord between Skopje and Sofia and secondary political downside in relations Skopje-Athens as each Bulgaria and Greece don’t acknowledge any “Macedonians” on their state-territories whereas Sofia doesn’t acknowledge in any respect the existence of “Macedonians” and their language as “Macedonian” underneath the cheap declare that Slavo-Macedonians are, truly, ethnic Bulgarians who converse a dialect from Macedonia of Bulgarian language. In Greece, these audio system of Slavonic language are formally referred to as as Slavophone Greeks. As they’re of Christian Orthodox denomination, because the ethnic Greeks are too, Slavophone Greeks can’t benefit from the standing of a minority in Greece as Athens acknowledges solely spiritual minorities – i.e., those that usually are not Christian Orthodox. In frequent speech, Greeks are calling these Slavophone Greeks as Bulgarians[14] as their language doesn’t differ an excessive amount of from Bulgarian. Due to this fact, Greeks are refuting the essential standpoint by FYROM’s authorities about alleged historic continuity of the fashionable Macedonian identification: if there are Macedonians immediately they must be descendants of historic individuals of (non-Slavic) Macedons. Nonetheless, each Greeks and Bulgarians on this respect have the identical place: a self-identification by definition of FYROM’s “Macedonians” means solely what the individuals take into consideration themselves – regardless of whether or not they’re traditionally correct or not.

Bulgarian Viewpoint

Bulgarian place in regard to the query of the nationwide identification of FYROM’s “Macedonians” is sort of clear: they’re ethnolinguistic Bulgarians. Sofia can also be very eager to make use of historic continuity as a way to show Bulgarian claims in regards to the ethnolinguistic identification of FYROM’s Slavonic inhabitants simply from the other way compared to the place by Skopje: if there have been Bulgarians in Macedonia within the Center Ages as the one Slavs then immediately Slavo-Macedonians may be solely of Bulgarian origin and blood. Bulgarians, in essence, deny present-day actuality in FYROM that formally exist each “Macedonians” and “Macedonian” language which is, nonetheless, formally acknowledged internationally. Sofia is correct that Macedonian nationality is created by Comintern between two world wars and formally acknowledged by Titoist Yugoslav authorities after the WWII when the Socialist Republic of Macedonia turned created throughout the Yugoslav federation composed by six republics of six acknowledged nations of Yugoslavia. Nonetheless, what Bulgarians don’t wish to acknowledge as a matter of reality is that such “Macedonian” coverage of the post-1945 Yugoslav authorities was, in truth, primarily in opposition to Serbian nationwide curiosity as a consequence of a deep anti-Serbian coverage by primarily Croatian-Slovenian predominance and affect within the ruling construction of Titoist dictatorship.[15]

Sofia’s foremost argument in coping with Slavo-Macedonian identification is the linguistic function of the difficulty as it’s fairly clear that the so-called “Macedonian” language as spoken in Serbian-Yugoslav Vardar Macedonia is extraordinarily just like Bulgarian language to such extent that immediately FYROM’s Slavo-Macedonians and Bulgarians are speaking of their languages with one another with none translation or interpreter like Romanians and Moldavians. To be clear, all three languages spoken by Slavo-Macedonians, Bulgarians, and Serbs are comparable and belonging to a South Slavic linguistic group, however as a matter of reality, the spoken language of Slavo-Macedonians is far nearer to Bulgarian (if not the identical) then to Serbian.[16] Real Bulgarian nationwide emotions and identification in Vardar Macedonia, in accordance with Sofia, was regularly disappearing within the 20th century primarily due to three causes:

  • Yugoslav propaganda of serbization within the inter-war time.
  • Confrontation of a Slavic inhabitants with Bulgarian occupation authorities throughout the WWII.
  • Titoist organized anti-Bulgarian propaganda after the WWII in an effort to macedonize Slavs of the Folks’s (later Socialist) Republic of Macedonia.

On account of such historic improvement, immediately the overwhelming majority of the Slavic inhabitants in FYROM misplaced their genuine Bulgarian identification however their spoken language continues to be a elementary proof of their Bulgarian origin – a reality that’s confirmed by many historic sources collected and revealed in 1980 by Bulgarian Academy of Sciences in Sofia in a number of languages.[17] Due to this fact, when Sofia acknowledged the independence of the Republic of Macedonia after the break-up of Yugoslavia, Macedonian nationwide identification and language separate from Bulgarian weren’t.

Serbian Viewpoint

In another way from Greece and Bulgaria, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro) as much as 1996 acknowledged the independence of ex-Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in full satisfaction by Skopje: underneath the identify of the Republic of Macedonia, impartial Macedonian nationality and a separate Macedonian language. Due to this fact, Belgrade acknowledged, in truth, Slavo-Macedonians as not ethnic Serbs. Such diplomatic resolution deteriorated traditionally excellent relations with Greece as Athens insisted that Skopje can’t use the identify of Macedonia included into the official state-title. From this respect, Belgrade did the identical as did Sofia however otherwise as Tirana did: Albania acknowledged FYROM in April 1993 in addition to the political continuity of Macedonia from August 2nd, 1944 when a communist Anti-Fascist Meeting of Nationwide Liberation of Macedonia proclaimed Macedonia’s statehood.

From the 19th century as much as 1945 Serbs primarily understood the territory of immediately’s FYROM as “South” or “Vardar” Serbia given that it was included into the medieval Serbian empire proclaimed by the emperor Stefan Dušan in 1346 in Skopje as a capital of the state.[18] Vardar Macedonia was a part of Serbia from 1299 until 1371.[19] That may be a territory which the Kingdom of Serbia annexed from the Ottoman Empire after the Second Balkan Warfare in 1913 when “geographic-historical” Macedonia turned divided between Greece (51% – Aegean Macedonia), Serbia (39% – Vardar Macedonia) and Bulgaria (10% – Pirin Macedonia).[20]

Nonetheless, whereas Serbian place to the query of Macedonian identification after 1945 is especially clear from the political perspective, nice difficulties exist on the tutorial and fashionable degree as many Serbian academicians and folks declare Macedonians as ethnolinguistic Serbs. One of many essential arguments to help this place is the truth that “Slava” – household patron day (a pagan custom accommodated to the brand new Christian setting), as a customized, exists solely amongst Serbs wherever they stay. As Slavo-Macedonians have a good time “Slava” in addition to they must be of Serbian origin.

Nonetheless, average Serbian place is that all through the centuries Slavo-Macedonians, in truth, didn’t have any particular ethnic traits as being, in accordance with the well-known Serbian and Yugoslav ethnologist and geographer Jovan Cvijić, simply “une masse flottant” dwelling between Serbian and Bulgarian ethnic identities.[21] In different phrases, J. Cvijić claimed in 1906 that Slavo-Macedonians are solely an amorphous mass that’s going to be assimilated both by Serbs or Bulgarians, relying on the affect of the related propaganda. Many average Serbian nationalists may even settle for his standpoint that the identify “Bulgarian”, which was often utilized by Slavs of Macedonia across the yr 1900, was not an ethnolinguistic identify however somewhat the product of sturdy Bulgarian propaganda within the area of Macedonia which began to be unfold out from 1870 when the autonomous Bulgarian Exarchate was established by the Ottoman sultan with a jurisdiction over the most important portion of geographic-historical Macedonia.


Bearing in mind FYROM’s identify dispute between Athens and Skopje and a Greek concern of territorial irredentism coming from FYROM’s facet, a powerful obstruction of Greece in the direction of worldwide recognition and participation of FYROM from 1991 to 1993 was fairly comprehensible not less than from a political standpoint figuring out that the traditional Macedon tradition and historical past are deeply embedded right into a Greek historical past and nationwide consciousness. For all of those causes, it’s for Greeks very troublesome to just accept that one other nation can declare a reputation, tradition, and historical past which of their eyes are a part of Greek civilization.

FYROM’s territorial irredentism can have and has very sensible geopolitical causes of the financial nature: the landlocked nation is desperately trying to find the outlet of the seacoast. Essentially the most optimum answer is a Greek Aegean Sea with its greatest port of Thessaloniki – a metropolis marked as a capital of a united Larger Macedonia by all Slavo-Macedonian nationalists. Nonetheless, the territory of geographical-historical Macedonia has been for the final 150 years one of many focal apples of discord in South-East Europe. A secure affluent nation of Macedonia, nonetheless, can serve sooner or later as a bridge between all of her 4 neighbors[22] underneath one situation: to relinquish its territorial irredentism.


[1] Marijana Ivanova, “The Final Domino? FYR of Macedonia Dealing with New Challenges”, EuroBalkans, Autumn/Winter 1999, 47.

[2] Concerning the geopolitical and historic context of latest Balkan questions, see [Derek Corridor, Darrick Danta (eds.), Reconstructing the Balkans: A Geography of the New Southeast Europe, Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons Ltd, 1996].

[3] Vanni Cappelli, “The Macedonian Query…Once more”, The Washington Quarterly, Vol. 23, No. 3, 1998, 133.

[4] VMRO-DPMNE (Inside Macedonian Revolutionary Organisation-Democratic Occasion of Macedonian Nationwide Unity). A Macedonian „nationwide unity“ is seen as a creation of a Larger (geographic-historical) Macedonia.

[5] On the primary markers of Greek nationwide identification in Archaic, Classical, and Hellenistic intervals, see [Katerina Zacharia (ed.), Hellenismas: Tradition, Identification, and Ethnicity from Antiquity to Modernity, New York: Routledge, 2008].

[6] Victor Roudometof, “Nationalism and Identification Politics within the Balkans: Greece and the Macedonian Query”, Journal of Fashionable Greek Research, Vol. 14, No. 2, 1996, 253−301.

[7] Nicolas Ok. Martis, The Falsification of Macedonian Historical past, Athens: Graphic Arts, 1984; Loring M. Danforth, “Claims to Macedonian Identification: The Macedonian Query and the Breakup of Yugoslavia”, Anthropology Right this moment, Vol. 9, No. 4, 1993, 3−10.

[8] Loring M. Danforth, “Claims to Macedonian Identification: The Macedonian Query and the Breakup of Yugoslavia”, Anthropology Right this moment, Vol. 9, No. 4, 1993, 3−10.

[9] A referendum on independence was held on September 8th, 1991 and based mostly on its outcomes on September 17th, 1991 it was adopted the Declaration of Sovereignty and Statehood. The Meeting (Sobranie) adopted new structure on November 17th, 1991 in accordance with which, the Republic of Macedonia turned the official state-name of this former Yugoslav socialist republic [Sabrina P. Ramet (ed.), Central and Southeast European Politics since 1989, New York: Cambridge College Press, 2010, 348].

[10] Nikolaos Zahariadis, “Nationalism and Small-State International Coverage: The Greek Response to the Macedonian Concern”, Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 109, No. 4., 1994, 647−667.

[11] John Shea on a historical past of Macedonia [ /shea.html].

[12] Irredentism is, in truth, a synonym for “piedmontization” after the mannequin of the unification of Italy, construct across the Piedmont state within the 1860s. Within the case of Macedonian nationalism, FYROM has to play a job of Macedonian Piedmont.

[13] Loring M. Danforth, “Claims to Macedonian Identification: The Macedonian Query and the Breakup of Yugoslavia”, Anthropology Right this moment, Vol. 9, No. 4, 1993, 3−10.

[14] Hugh Poulton, The Balkans: Minorities and States in Battle, London: Minority Rights Publications, 1994, 175.

[15] Yugoslav dictator Josip Broz Tito (1892−1980) by himself was half Slovenian and half Croatian from Roman Catholic household born in Croatia (Kumrovec in Zagorje) very near the border with Slovenia. Through the WWI he was preventing on the Serbian entrance as a solder of notorious Austro-Hungarian 42. Satan Division which dedicated horrible struggle crimes in opposition to civilians in West Serbia in 1914 [Перо Симић, Тито и Срби. Књига 1 (1914−1944), Београд: Laguna, 2016, 25−48].

[16] On the Balkan languages, nationwide identification and nationalism, see in [Stephen Barbour, Cathie Carmichael (eds.), Language and Nationalism in Europe, New York: Oxford College Press, 2000, 221−239].

[17] Macedonia: Anthology of Paperwork and Supplies, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, Historic Institute and Institute of Bulgarian Language, Sofia, 1980.

[18] Станоје Станојевић, Сви српски владари, Београд: Отворена књига, 2015, 56−57.

[19] In 1371 the second and final Serbia’s emperor, Stefan Uroš, died and the empire turned ceaselessly gone because the feudal lords decomposed it [Јованка Калић, Срби у позном средњем веку, друго издање, Београд: Службени лист СРЈ, 2001, 10−11; Миладин Стевановић, Душаново царство, Београд: Књига-комерц, 2001, 181−187].

[20] Georges Castellan, Historical past of the Balkans: From Mohammed the Conqueror to Stalin, New York: Columbia College Press, 1992, 377−382.

[21] Јован Цвијић, Неколика посматрања о етнографији македонских Словена, Београд, 1906. Nonetheless, Cvijić marked the Slavo-Macedonians because the Serbs on his Ethnographic Map of the Balkan Peninsula in 1918 which was made for the political objective to say the Vardar Macedonia for the brand new Yugoslav state somewhat than for the post-WWI Bulgaria.

[22] Hough Poulton, Who’re the Macedonians?, Hong Kong: Hurst & Firm London, 1995, 210.

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