Control of the Bulgarophile population (who self-identified Bulgarian) in the Southern-most area of the Kingdom of Serbia known as Vardarska Banovina, was of the utmost importance for Serbs who used political and educational propaganda in a systematic way in order to keep Vardarska Banovina from uniting with the Kingdom of Bulgaria in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries.

Essentially, where Serbs mixed with Bulgarians, a different idea of Macedonism evolved. This Macedonism differed from the Macedonism of Bulgarian intellectuals like Krste Misirkov, the Verhovist Committee supporters, and the VMRO revolutionnaries known as Komitadjis. The Macedonism of these people was pro-Bulgarian and involved either the immediate union of ALL the region of Macedonia (in European Turkey) with the Kingdom of Bulgaria (as the Verhovists wanted), or the preliminary autonomy of this region with eventual annexation by the Kingdom of Bulgaria (as the VMRO wanted). This was all a continuation of the old and failed dream of a ‘Greater Bulgaria’ envisioned by Russia through the overturned, and therefore preliminary, Treaty of San Stefano. The idea of first autonomy and then annexation with a motherland can be seen in modern times with Kosovo and Albania. Many Albanians want to see the union of these two Balkan states. Consequently, there is no Kosovar ethnicity…it either is Albanian or Serbian depending on where one lives in Kosovo. Similarly, there was never a ‘Macedonian ethnicity’…it was either Greek or Bulgarian depending on where one lived in Macedonia, which church they followed, or what motherland one pledged allegiance to.

Serbian-inspired Macedonism had as its roots a creation of a non-Bulgarian way of thinking for the Slavs in the region of Macedonia - a creation of a ‘Macedonian ethnicity’ that would be pro-Serb. This is evident in the way the Serbians referred to the people in Vardarska Banovina as either South Serbs or eventually simply ‘Macedonians’. This propaganda started in the late 19th Century and flourished under Communist Yugoslavia with the renaming of Vardarska Banovina into ‘The People’s Republic of Macedonia’ in 1944. It is also evident in Yugoslavian leader Tito’s choice of the local Western Bulgarian dialect spoken in the area of Bitolia to become the ‘Macedonian language’ in 1944. This dialect had differences from proper Bulgarian and could be easily manipulated and codified into a new language. Many Bulgarian, Greek, Turkish, and Albanian elements were removed and were replaced with Serb elements. Many Bulgarian letters were changed to Serb letters. As such the differences between this dialect and Bulgarian were emphasized and the similarities (although many) were purposely ignored. Communism (then) fueled, and state-sponsored nationalism (now) continues to fuel Macedonist irredentism from Yugoslavia (then) and FYROM (now) towards all its neighbours but especially towards Greece with its large warm sea port of Thessaloniki.

Below are 2 examples of Serb-inspired Macedonism. One is officially state-sponsored (letter to the Serb Education Minister in 1888) and the other is local (through Belgrade supporters in towns and villages in Vardarska Banovina):

Стојан Новаковић, Stojan Novaković


Serbian Minister to Turkey 1886 – 1895

Prime Minister of Serbia 1895 – 1900

Serbian Minister to Russia 1900 – 1909

Prime Minister of Serbia 1909 – 1915

Leader of the Progressive Party of Serbia 1906 – 1915

Novakovic’s dispatch to the Serbian Education Minister 21/05/1888

Since the Bulgarian idea, as it is well known to all, is deeply rooted in Macedonia, I think it is impossible to shake it completely by opposing it merely with the Serbian idea…this idea would be incapable of suppressing the Bulgarian idea…that is why the Serbian idea will need an ally that could stand in direct opposition to the Bulgarianism…this ally I see in the Macedonism or to a certain extent in our nursing the Macedonian dialect and Macedonian separatism…”

Serbian Propaganda

Spirodon Gopčević’s 1889 Macedonia and Old Serbia, a polemical travel book, contains several conversations with illiterate Slavs [in Macedonia, European Turkey], such as the following exchange between Gopčević

and some peasants in [the village of] Pajzanovo:

“ -And all [Pajzanovers] are Serbs like you?

-Serbs like us???

-Well, aren’t you speaking Serbian with me?

-By God, I don’t know, we are speaking ‘Bulgarski’. [Bogami, ne znam; mi govorimo Bulgarski]

-‘Bulgarski’, that may be, but not Bulgarian, which is a totally different language.

[Bulgarski - to može biti, ali ne Bolgarski, što je jedan sasvim drugi jezik.]

Everyone looked at me with amazement.”

· Makedonien und Alt-Serbien, by Spiridon



· Gopčević

, 1889, page 58.

Ø In: Krsté Misirkov’s 1903 Call for Macedonian Autocephaly: Religious Nationalism as Instrumental Political Tactic, by Alexander Maxwell, Studia Theologica V, 3/2007, pages 147 – 176.

By Christos

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