Hugh Pulton, Who are the Macedonians

The three peoples in Macedonia with the longest claim to continuity are the Greeks, the Vlachs (possibly descendants of Romanized elements of the original Thracians) and the Albanians who claim descent from the ancient Illyrians.
The Slavs, an Indo-European people originating in east-central Europe, had begun to cross the Danube into the Balkans by the 6th cent AD.
In the 7th cent combined assaults of Slavs and Proto-Bulgarians, a Turkic people from the area between the Urals and Volga who had come via the steppes north of the Caspian Sea, led to the founding of the first Bulgarian state in 681.
In 864, under the direction of their leader Boris, the Proto-Bulgarians converted en masse to Christianity and this greatly helped them coalesce with the Slavs, who had already been converted.
Thus by the end of the 9th century they were as one people speaking a Slav-based language (although modern Slav Macedonians historians in Skopje claim that the Macedonia Slavs have always been a separate people from those in Bulgaria).

[Hugh Pulton, Who are the Macedonians, page 4]

The conversion of the Slavs to Christianity was greatly helped by the pioneering work of two Greek brothers from Salonika, the Saints Constantine (who took the name Cyril on becoming a monk) and Methodius. They codified the Slav dialects of the Slavs Living in the vicinity in order to aid the evangelisation of these people. This was the so-called Church Slavonic or Old Bulgarian , originally written in the Glagolithic script.

[Hugh Pulton, Who are the Macedonians, page 19]


In Yugoslav Macedonia the new authorities quickly set about consolidating their position. The new nation needed a written language, and initially the spoken dialect of northern Macedonia was chosen as the basis for the Macedonian language. However, this was deemed too close to Serbian and the dialects of Bitola-Veles became the norm.(1) These dialects were closer to the literary language of Bulgaria but because the latter was based on the eastern Bulgarian dialects, it allowed enough differentiation for the Yugoslavs to claim it as a language distinct from Bulgarian-a point which Bulgaria has bitterly contested ever since(2). In fact the differentiation between the Macedonian and Bulgarian dialects becomes progressively less pronounced on an east-west basis. Macedonian shares nearly all the same distinct characteristics which separate Bulgarian from other Slav languages lack of cases, the post-positive definite article, replacement of the infinitive form, and preservation of the simple verbal forms for the past and imperfect tenses-but whether it is truly a different language from Bulgarian or merely a dialect of it is a moot point.The alphabet was accepted on 3 May 1945 and the orthography on 7 June 1945, and the first primer in the new language appeared by 1946, in which year a Macedonian Department in the Faculty of Philosophy at the University of Skopje was also founded.A grammar of the Macedonian literary language appeared in 1952, and the Institute for the Macedonian Language “Krste P’ Misirkov” was founded the following year. Since the Second world ‘war the new republic has used the full weight of the education system and the bureaucracy to make the new language common parlance, and indeed it is noticeable that old people still tend to speak a mixture of dialects which include obvious Serbianisms and Bulgarianisms, while those young enough to have gone through the education system in its entirety speak_ a ‘purer’ Macedonian.

In addition, io the new language, the new republic needed a history and this was quickly reflected in the new school textbooks. Here again bitter resentment was caused in Bulgaria since-the Macedonian historical figures are also claimed by Bulgaria as Bulgarian heroes, e g- the medieval emperor Samuil whose empire was centred around lake Ochrid and Gotse Delchev one of the leaders of the abortive rising of 1903 in Macedonia-Macedonian textbooks even hint at Bulgarian complicity in his death at the hands of the Ottomans (3)

Such a policy needed careful massaging and concealment. AsBulgarians pointed out, in the museum of the SR Macedonia it was not possible to see original works by the likes of the Miladinov brothers, who had been in the forefront of Slav consciousness in the mid-nineteenth century, and were now claimed to be Macedonian as opposed to Bulgarian: in some of their works they clearly stated that they were Bulgarians. Suitably edited versions in the new language were promoted to boost the new line, and similar methods were used for a host of other leaders in the nineteenth century Bulgarian revival process who came from Macedonia. Similar editing was done on the history of VMRO with, so Bulgarians claimed, unnatural emphasis on the thought and activity of the so-called ‘left’ autonomist wing, despite its actually being a small minority within VMRO’ and its views were now claimed to support a Macedonian nationality separate from the Bulgarians(4).



Language and education (pages 116-117).

By Akritas

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