The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

A Challenge to the Macedonism of the Slavs

© Marcus A. Templar, 2008.

  • Abstract and Acknowledgement
  • Chapter 1. What is all about? Regional Stability and Security
  • Chapter 2. Ancient Macedonia and its people
  • Chapter 3. Slavs: New Invaders in Byzantium
  • Chapter 4. Ilinden Uprising: A “Macedonian” or a Bulgarian Act?
  • Chapter 5. The Transmutation of a Slav People to Macedonians
  • Chapter 6. The Establishment of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
  • Chapter 7. Nationalism and Stability
  • Conclusion
  • Appendix
  • Bibliography
  • Chapter 3.

    Slavs: New Invaders in Byzantium

    The Coming of the Slavs

    Lasting settlements of Slavs in geographic Macedonia began at the end of the sixth century. Up to the middle of the seventh century, Slavic tribes known as the “Seven Tribes,” namely Draguviti, Brsjaci or Bereziti, Sagudati, Rinhini, Strumljani or Strimonci, Smoljani, Velegeziti, Milinges, Ezerites, Timočani, Abodrini, and Moravijani formed tribal unions and managed to become an important political and ethnic factor in the Balkans. 46

    What makes this story so remarkable is the fact that these tribal unions are the ancestors of The FYROM’s current Slavic population. They originally had inhabited settlements in parts of the territory from the River Nestos (Mesta) to Thessaly, and from Thessaloniki to the mountains Rila, to the East and beyond Shar Planina (ancient Greek Skardos) to the areas that today are Shumadia, the River Morava and the Mts. Timok well within modern Serbian Territory. By no means does the above statement mean that the Slavic tribes in question were so numerous that they had overwhelmed and overcome the local Greek populations. There is no evidence to support such a thesis. On the contrary, the Greek population assimilated later Slavic tribes without changing the anthropological or social characteristics. 47

    As time passed, the Thracians and Illyrians east and west of the Slavic areas respectively, were severely pressed by the Slavs, and were either pushed to the mountains or assimilated later by the Slavs. The Milinges and Ezerites moved peacefully south and settled in Peloponnesus with a good number of them preferring the area of Mount Taygetos and the city of Aegion. Both Slavic tribes disappeared by the twelfth century. 48

    Referring to population assimilation processes in the Balkans, the 1974 edition of the Military Encyclopedia of Tito’s Yugoslavia, part of which was the present-day FYROM, writes,

    …[d]ue to its strong culture and multitudinous population, the Greeks could not be assimilated [by the Slavs], but stayed intact. So areas with strong Greek presence remained Greek. Thus even if Slavic and Bulgarian elements were living in Macedonia and Thrace the main bulk of the populace was Greek. The Illyrian lands that form today’s Albania and its neighboring areas were too distant to Slavic and Bulgarian reach. 49

    The FYROM’s historians and politicians never objected to such published truths in their own federal state, impelling us to conclude that the Slavs imposed their language and culture on the hellenized Paeonians, on Greeks who were distributed sparsely in certain areas of the Balkans only, and on other people they encountered in their area. Referring to Macedonia and Thrace, the encyclopedia clearly admits that the “main bulk of the people was Greek,” with the word “Macedonians” not appearing in the text.

    The Slav masses concentrated in the Vardar Province (part of which is FYROM today), but they also existed in culturally separate communities elsewhere along with the much larger and historically entrenched Hellenic communities. Although our knowledge of the ethnicity of the migrant masses is incomplete and shrouded in controversy, it is indisputable that virtually from the time of their appearance in the Balkans the Slavs wittingly or unwittingly behaved like Bulgarians and identified themselves as Bulgarians. To this challenging fact must be added the more intriguing fact that no “Macedonian” ethnicity had officially appeared or was mentioned until 1943-1944, not even in the Manifesto of the Krushevo Republic (1903), which was later exploited by the Yugoslav communists and by Skopjan historians as the manifesto of the first “Macedonian” government in history. The fact remains that the Bulgarians instigated the uprising and wrote the manifesto, not any “Macedonians.” 50

    Written in perfect Bulgarian, the manifesto is a historical Declaration of Independence of geographical Macedonia addressed to all inhabitants of Macedonia “regardless of faith, nationality, sex or conviction.” As with names and other symbols, the Vardar Slavs grabbed the Ilinden uprising’s “glorious” torch from the Bulgarians, after Comintern (Communist International) suppressed Bulgaria’s dreams for Macedonia in 1941, and used Ilinden as a ploy to give credence to their separate ethnic identity as “Macedonians.”

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    Sts. Cyril and Methodius, Equal to the Apostles, Illuminators of the Slavs. 51

    Greek Macedonia, or Macedonia Proper was destined to play a very important role in Christianity. The two Great sons of Macedonia, brothers Constantine (in schema Cyril) and Michael (in schema Methodius) provided education to the ignorant and uncivilized Slavs through religion and gave them an alphabet and codified their language, the Old Church Slavonic. The two Greek brothers from Thessaloniki, were the sons of Leon and Maria. Leon was a descendant of the Byzantine Empress, Irene the Athenian (797-802), wife of the Emperor Leon IV and was a drougarios, a senior official equal to a General, of the imperial administration. It is clear from Methodius’ biography that the two brothers were fluent Greek-speakers and educated in a Greek environment, and they grasped the Slavonic language easily. Cyril mastered a number of other languages, including Hebrew and Arabic according to his biographer and disciple, Clement.

    There are a series of Papal affirmations regarding the birth and the nationality of the two brothers and their family. They are:

    1. The Encyclical promulgated on 20 November 1901 (On the Foundation of a Seminary in Athens, Pope Leo XIII).

    2. Apostolic Letter Pacis Nuntius(3) of 24 October 1964, proclaimed Saint Benedict Patron of Europe.

    3. Egregiae Virtutis, by Pope John Paul II, December 31, 1980.

    4. (Slavorum Apostoli Pope John Paul II, 2 June 1985).

    5. Encyclical Epistle Grande Munus (30 September 1880), in Leonis XIII Pont. Max. Acta, II, PP. 125 137; cf. also PIUS XI, Letter Quod S. Cyrillum (13 February 1927) to the Archbishops and Bishops of the Kingdom of the Serbs-Croats-Slovenes and of the Czechoslovakian Republic: AAS 19 (1927), pp. 93-96; JOHN XXIII, Apostolic Letter Magnifici Eventus (11 May 1963) to the Prelates of the Slav Nations: AAS 55 (1963), pp. 434-439. PAUL VI, Apostolic Epistle Antiquae Nobilitatis (2 February 1969) for the eleventh centenary of the death of Saint Cyril: AAS 61 (1969), pp. 137-149).

    6. UT UNUM SINT (That They May Be One) Pope John Paul II, 25 May 1995.”

    The Bulgarian Government considers the two brothers Greeks. 52 Professors Ivan Lazaroff, Plamen Pavloff, Ivan Tyutyundzijeff and Milko Palangurski of the Faculty of History of Sts. Cyril and Methodius University in Veliko Tŭrnovo, Bulgaria 53 , state very explicitly that the two brothers were Greeks from Thessaloniki. Oscar Halecki, 54 Professor of Eastern European History, agrees with the authors of Kratka istoriya na bŭlgarskiya narod. Moveover, Dr. Petar Djordjic states “Cyril and Methodius were Greeks,” and speaking of Cyril he further states, “he studied in his native Thessaloniki.” 55 Bulgarian Professors Vasil Gyuzelev, Konstantine Kosev, and Georgi Georgiev are of the same opinion. 56

    It is very well known and documented that the father of Sts. Cyril and Methodius was Greek. 57

    Nevertheless, there is a plethora of statements found in mostly Slavic websites and books written by Slavs offering a variety of statements about Maria’s nationality, from “it is said she was a Slav,” to “she was probably a Slav,” to “she was a Slav.” Such statements are unsubstantiated assertions since none of these publications offers any Byzantine or other source of that period as their reference.

    Proper names in the ancient Hellenic times were given based on ethnicity. Greeks received Greek names, Thracians received Thracian names, Illyrians received Illyrian names, etc. It was very important to people that they have names that meant something in their own language. In the Roman times, we see the phenomenon that Romans would receive Greek names and Greeks would receive Roman names. Upon the spread of Christianity, Greek or Hebrew proper names were given to the newly baptized. Thus the name Maria had to be given to her either at birth, which means she was a Greek, given the fact that the Slavs and the Bulgarians were not Christian yet, or she received her name Maria upon her baptism. However, there is no such evidence in any of the known creditable sources. The same is true for Michael and Constantine, later known as Methodius and Cyril respectively.

    In the 1800s, Falmerayer wrote his treatise on the Slavic origin of Modern Greeks. However, there are also allegations that he was secretly commissioned by the Russian Imperial Court. The secret diplomatic documents of the Austrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs unclassified after WWI revealed Falmerayer’s professional connection to the Russian General Osterman Tolstoy, who escorted Falmerayer to Greece by order of the Russian Czarist government. 58 The German historian Hopf 59 refuted Falmerayer’s theory that Greece was overrun by Slavs during the AD 6th century to the point that they became Slavs themselves, and he proved the uninterrupted presence of the Hellenic nation in its ancestral soil and attested to the origin of the Greeks from their ancient ancestors. 60 Bartholomaeus Kopitar, a Slavonic historian and a philologist himself, agreed with Hopf. 61

    According to Menandros, a contemporary chronographer, the Slavs invaded Thrace in AD 578. Falmerayer’s contention that Slavic tribes at that time reached Larissa is belied by Prokopios. Falmerayer used the Chronicle of Monembasia, which described the activities of the Slavs in Greece 200 years later. Falmerayer used events that took place in a different area in another time in order to form his theory.

    Because of the above, any assertion about Maria’s ethnicity becomes suspect in light of the allegations regarding Falmerayer and his interest in converting the Greeks into Slavs. Regardless of Falmerayer’s assertions, it was very evident that during the Ottoman rule and despite the Turkish suppression of any education in Greek, the Greeks spoke Greek. After Greece’s independence, the Greek nation emerged Greek speaking, but it needed a betterment of the Greek language, which its first Governor, Ioannes Capodistrias, sought, and he achieved the elevation of the language spoken by an uneducated Greek population to the highest standard possible. In 1830, at the time of its independence, Greece had a population of 700,000 and its area was only about 65,000 square km.

    Accepting the assumption that Maria was a Slav, we have to presuppose that she was an Orthodox

    Christian before she married her husband Leon, since the Christian Church and especially the Greek Orthodox Church even today, does not permit marriages between Christians and non-Christians. The tradition of civil marriage was not acceptable in the Byzantine society and neither was it known. Thus, if Maria became a Christian before her marriage to Leon, she probably was speaking excellent Greek as well, because she had to undergo a certain catechism in Greek before the marriage. During her time, there were no books in the Old Church Slavonic. Her sons invented the Slavonic Alphabet and translated the Bible and canonical books in the Old Church Slavonic much later. Nonetheless, there is no evidence pointing to the above assumption.

    Had Maria been the first Slav to accept Christianity with a future husband being a member of a prestigious family and a blood relative of the Byzantine Empress, Irene the Athenian, the chronographers of that time would have given a lot of publicity to such an event. Yet, we hardly have anything about her life, not only as a single woman, but also as the mother of two great sons. The family was well known to the Palace and the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, and such an event as the conversion of a Slav girl to Christianity and her imminent marriage to Leon would have been the news of the year in the area, if not in the Empire. Certainly, the Church would have noticed such an event. Nevertheless, the Church recognizes Czar Boris I of Bulgaria as the first Slavonic speaking person to become Christian. Boris I of Bulgaria and his closest associates were baptized in the palace in Pliska in a late autumn night of 864, and so Bulgaria became a Christian state.

    Methodius was the elder brother and his baptismal name was probably Michael. He was born between 815 and 820. His younger brother Constantine, who came to be better known by his religious name Cyril, was born in 827 or 828. Although Methodius was older, Cyril became more eminent, mainly because of his knowledge of the Slavic language, which he had acquired earlier. 62

    Like all children of the higher imperial officials, the two brothers received their advanced education at the Imperial School of Constantinople. The family’s social position made it possible for the two brothers to have parallel careers. Methodius became the governor authority (Gr. Archon or Prefect) of the Strymon District of Macedonia, but more possibly in Bithynia, 63 where large numbers of Slavs had been resettled. Cyril undertook a mission to the Arabs, and then became a professor of philosophy at the imperial school in Constantinople and librarian at the cathedral of Santa Sophia. There he received the name “the Philosopher.” Cyril appears in the Slavic texts to be conscious of belonging to Byzantine society and of his Greek descent. In his dialogue with the Arab Muslims he points out that “all sciences originated from us,” meaning the Byzantine and Greek culture. 64

    The Comitopuli: The rise of a Count, Samuil and Basil II, the Bulgar-Slayer

    The Bulgars had become a considerable power, but between 833 and 972 AD their power declined because of internal strife and external interference (Russians, Byzantines, Bogomils, etc.). Their empire included more or less the territories of present-day Bulgaria,

    Macedonism%20of%20the%20Slavs img 6 The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia   A Challenge to the Macedonism of the Slavs, Chapter 3
    Petar Delev, Valeri Katsunov, and others, “12. The decline of the First Bulgarian Empire,” in History and civilization for 11th grade (Sirma, Trud 2006).

    present-day Serbia, the area of The FYROM and some parts of the western, central and eastern Greek Macedonia. The port of Thessaloniki was in Byzantine hands. At this time, Bulgaria was divided into two provinces, Eastern and Western.

    In 972 John I Tzimisces, Emperor of Byzantium, took the opportunity to seize Eastern Bulgaria when a preemptive attack of the Russians dethroned the Bulgarian Emperor Boris II. The Western Province survived under the leadership of a Bulgarian, Count Nikola, and his four sons: Samuil, David, Moses, and Aaron. One of these sons, Samuil, assumed the title of Czar and at first made Prespa his capital and later Ohrid, and from there he launched a fierce attack against Byzantium seizing all Macedonia (except Thessaloniki) and Thessaly. He also recovered Serbia and Northern Bulgaria and transferred his capital back to Sofia. General Nicephorus Ouranos of the Byzantine Army checked them in the area of the River Sperchios and routed the retreating Bulgarians to Macedonia.

    On July 29, 1014, at Belasica (Greek: Kleidion) close to Strumica (present day The FYROM), the Emperor of Byzantium Basil II of the Macedonian dynasty, ended Samuil’s empire by capturing 15,000 soldiers. A sad detail of this battle is that Basil II ordered that the 15,000 soldiers be chained in files of 100, blinding one eye of the first soldier in each file, and blinding completely the following 99. In this condition, Basil II sent Samuil’s soldiers back home. When Samuil saw them, he was so shocked that he died from a heart attack a few months later, two days after he saw the sad consequence of the battle. For this act of his, history gave Basil II the infamous title of “the Bulgar-slayer.”

    It must be noted that Basil II, a short man with brilliant light blue eyes, was a descendant of those autochthonous Macedonians who some centuries back emigrated from Macedonia to the area between the present day Edirne and Keşan in Turkish Thrace. At that time, that area was called the Province of Macedonia, and that is why Basil II is a descendant of the Macedonian Dynasty of Byzantium. It is said he was born in Charioupolis, present day Hayrabolu, Turkish Thrace. 65

    Skopje argues that the ancient Macedonians a) were not of Greek stock, and b) they had already amalgamated with the Slav invaders and that is why they want to be called “Macedonians.” Skopje also argues that Samuil and his troops were “Macedonians,” meaning Slavs. But, history has recorded that Basil was a Macedonian and very Greek and that is why he fought the Bulgarians. John Skylitzes, the primary source for the event is very specific about it:

    The emperor [Basil II] did not relent, but every year he marched into Bulgaria and laid waste and ravaged all before him. Samuel was not able to resist openly, nor to face the emperor in open warfare, so, weakened from all sides, he came down from his lofty lair to fortify the entrance to Bulgaria with ditches and fences. Knowing that the emperor always made his incursions through [the plain] known as Campu Lungu and [the pass known as] Kleidion (‘the key’), he undertook to fortify the difficult terrain to deny the emperor access. A wall was built across the whole width [of the pass] and worthy defenders were committed to it to stand against the emperor. When he arrived and made an attempt to enter [Bulgaria], the guards defended the wall manfully and bombarded and wounded the attackers from above. When the emperor had thus despaired of gaining passage, Nikephoros Xiphias, the strategos of Philippopolis, met with the emperor and urged him to stay put and continue to assault the wall, while, as he explained, he turned back with his men and, heading round to the south of Kleidion through rough and trackless country, crossed the very high mountain known as Belasica. … On 29 July, in the twelfth indiction [1014], [Xiphias and his men] descended suddenly on the Bulgarians, from behind and screaming battle cries. Panic stricken by the sudden assault [the Bulgarians] turned to flee, while the emperor broke through the abandoned wall. Many [Bulgarians] fell and many more were captured; Samuel barely escaped from danger with the aid of his son, who fought nobly against his attackers, placed him on a horse, and made for the fortress known as Prilep. The emperor blinded the Bulgarian captives — around 15 000 they say — and he ordered every group of one hundred to be led back to Samuel by a one-eyed man. And when [Samuel] saw the equal and ordered detachments returning he could not bear it manfully nor with courage, but was himself struck blind and fell in a faint to the ground. His companions revived him for a short time with water and smelling salts, and somewhat recovered he asked for a sip of cold water. Taking a gulp he had a heart attack and died two days later on 6 October. 66

    After Samuil, Bulgaria, including the area of present day The FYROM, lost its glory, and it became a Thema or province of Byzantium under the name Province of Bulgaria, and within a couple of centuries fell into Turkish hands.

    During Turkish rule, geographic Macedonia was not an administrative entity, but was divided in three vilayets: the Vilayet of Kosova, which included Skopje; the Vilayet of Manastir (Bitola); and the Vilayet of Selanik (Thessaloniki). The Ottoman government made no reference to Macedonia.

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    Byzantine Themata in the Balkans circa AD 1045. 67

    The Yugoslav Military Encyclopedia under the title ‘The Creation of the Macedonian State under Samuil, states that the Western Province of Bulgaria survived under the leadership of a Brsjac (or Berezit), prince Nikole, and his four sons: Samuil, David, Mojsej, and Aron. Thus the logic of the FYROM Slavs is that since the leader was a member of a Slavic tribe living in the geographic Macedonia, then the whole country had to be Macedonian and not Bulgarian.

    This logic raises a few questions. Besides the fact that the above statement has no basis on truth since by all accounts Samuil was a Bulgarian (see Bitola Inscription below), the groups Samuil was reigning over were mixed Bulgarian and Slavic. Assuming that Samuil was a Berezit (aka Brsjac) and not a Bulgarian, as all respected historians contend, the ethnicity of a king would not immediately become the ethnicity of all his subjects. The Slavs advocate exactly the opposite regarding the ethnicity of Philip II and Alexander the Great claiming that the kings of ancient Macedonia were Greeks, but their subjects were Macedonian, which was either an indigenous or an Illyrian or a Thracian tribe, but not Greek. Kiro Gligorov in his self-biographical book Makedonija e sé što imame (= Macedonia is All that We Have) states that he could not agree to any change of his country’s name because he could not see his compatriots changing their name overnight. However, his country’s official history reveals exactly that; moreover, the communists by changing the name of the republic to “Macedonia” and its people “Macedonians” also did the same. Returning to Samuil we have to question the logic of changing people’s ethnicity to the one of the governing king. If the logic of the Slavs on Samuil had applied to the reality of the Roman Empire, then the people of the Roman Empire would have changed ethnicity overnight repeatedly for it is a fact that not all Emperors of Rome were Romans, but they were Germans, Illyrians, etc.

    Assuming that all of his subjects were actually Slavs, the question arises as to who and what gives the Slavs the authority to appropriate the name Macedonians? Since the ancient Macedonians, who in the Skopjan scholarship were not Greeks (they never say what was the ethnicity of the ancient Macedonians), have disappeared and there is nobody to defend their name, their culture, and their language, the opportunity to transform the Slavs into “Macedonians” and then claim their lands is unique. This is the bottom line of their policy of mutation as Kofos has called it.

    The Slavs of The FYROM insist that Samuil, a very glorious man in their history, was a Slav of the Berezit (Brsjac) tribe, but the column commemorating Czar Samuil’s parents, as appears below, attests to the fact that he was a Bulgarian, meaning a Slav and not a

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    Czar Samuil’s column commemorating his parents (AD 993). 68 The stele was discovered in the Monastery of St, Achilius on an island at Lake Prespa, Greece in 1888.

    “Macedonian.” The column is written in AD 993 in the infantile Bulgarian language, which in some degree is different from the Old Church Slavonic in writing style and language.

    The Bitola Inscription is an inscription made by order of Bulgarian Tsar Ivan Vladislav in 1015 or 1016 in connection with the fortification of the Bitola fortress. The inscription was found in 1956 in the village German near Bitola, The FYROM, and is stored at the Bitola Historical Museum.

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    Museum of National History, Sofia, Bulgaria

    Text of the inscription, a translation from Old Bulgarian, states,

    In the year 6253 [1015] since the creation of the world, this fortress, built and made by Ivan, Tsar of Bulgaria, was renewed with the help and the prayers of Our Most Holy Lady and through the intercession of her twelve supreme apostles. The fortress was built as a haven and for the salvation of the lives of the Bulgarians. The work on the fortress of Bitola commenced on the twentieth day of October and ended on the… This Tsar was Bulgarian by birth, grandson of the pious Nikola and Ripsimia, son of Aaron, who was brother of Samuil, Tsar of Bulgaria, the two who routed the Greek army of Emperor Basil at Stipone where gold was taken….and this….Tsar was defeated by Emperor Basil in 6522 [1015] since the creation of the world in Klyutch (the Battle of Kleidion) and died at the end of the summer… 69

    From this inscription it becomes very clear that Samuil’s family considered themselves to be Bulgarian.

    Skopje further argues that the “Macedonian” people existed in the Medieval times and specifically after Samuil’s death. A further examination of the history concludes that the above claim is also untrue. On 16 April 1345, in the first Serbian Capital, Skopje, the new Patriarch of the Serbs, Joanikie II, and the Bulgarian patriarch of Trnovo, crowned Stefan Dushan, “czar and autocrat Greeks, Bulgarians, and Albanians.” 70 One has to wonder that if the “Macedonian” people existed, and since their territory was in the middle of Dushan’s kingdom, what was the reason that Dushan did not add the term “Macedonians” in his title?

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    Want more of this? See these Posts:

    1. The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia - A Challenge to the Macedonism of the Slavs, Chapter 1
    2. The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia - A Challenge to the Macedonism of the Slavs, Chapter 5
    3. The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia - A Challenge to the Macedonism of the Slavs, Chapter 6
    4. The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia - A Challenge to the Macedonism of the Slavs, Chapter 7
    5. The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia - A Challenge to the Macedonism of the Slavs, Chapter 4
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