Macedonia and Bulgarian National Nihilism
Ivan Alexandrov


We now address two new themes which contrast the Bulgarian and Serbian approaches to the Macedonian Question. These encompass the slogan for autonomy and the ideas of Macedonism. The notion of an autonomous Macedonia, as we all know, is a Bulgarian concept. It is accepted and carried by the Bulgarian national revolutionaries solely because of the interference of the Great Powers and the neighbouring monarchies who opposed national unification on the pretext of Balkan stability. At its core the slogan for autonomy sustains the national democratic thought for complete liberation and unification of the Bulgarian nation. Expressed within the new current thinking, autonomy was the initial aspiration of IMRO, and national unification the final one.

The quest for autonomy cannot be simply contemplated as an idea of the original Macedonian revolutionary movement of Dr Hristo Tatarchev, Dame Gruev, Gotse Delchev and the others. This very concept, adapted to the particular circumstances which followed the second partition of Macedonia, remained throughout the years after WWI. As Todor Alexandroff wrote in 1919:

"IMRO never presumed that in its Constitution the term independent (autonomous) Macedonia meant a conclusion ... the Constitution cited as an objective:- autonomy for Macedonia but as a transitional phase. This objective was not only understood by the original founders of the Organization, but by almost all of their comrades and successors, by all the Macedonian intelligentsia and the entire Macedonian population"
Further on Todor Alexandroff continues this theme
"It is not true that the emigrants of the autonomists wanted independence and not unification. Exactly the opposite is true, because we all realize that autonomy would only lead to new unknown struggles ... We all accepted the autonomy of Macedonia as a lesser evil when unification was an impossibility ... The Bulgarian population of Macedonia is unanimous for the union with Bulgaria, if it can be accomplished. This is foremost in the people's hearts ... In Macedonia we, more than any other organization, know what the Bulgarian population desires since our support there is very strong"

The concept of Macedonism is an old Serbian ploy, a disguised variant of their open policy to Serbianize Macedonia and then annex the territory. The Serbian statesman Stoyan Novakovic is credited with conceiving the strategy of Macedonism in 1887. He summarised the notion as follows

"If the Macedonian Bulgarians cannot be Serbianized directly, then their national unity must be broken by producing within them a belief that they are neither Serbians nor Bulgarians."


In essence what we see is a determined Greater-Serbian monarchist scheme to separate the Macedonians from the rest of the Bulgarian nation, and so absorb the land and completely assimilate the population.

The most quoted exponent of Macedonism prior to WWII is Krste Misirkov [32] (1874-1926), who was born in the western region of Aegean Macedonia. Misirkov, however, by the nature of his own articles, showed he had widely differing positions with respect to Bulgarian-Macedonians. Therefore while in 1903 he advocated Macedonism, in 1924 he declares himself a Bulgarian patriot.

From this initial comparison of the strategies relating to the Macedonian Question, we may readily observe that the Bulgarian and Serbian positions are diametrically opposed, since one is liberationist and just, the other expansionist and oppressive. To highlight that the slogan for autonomy and the ideas of Macedonism are both merely transitory tactics, one only has to review the historic record. When during the Balkan War and WWI Bulgaria controlled most of Macedonia and our unification seemed imminent, the slogan for autonomy was absent. However when Macedonia fell under national slavery in 1913 and 1919 the slogan for autonomy appeared once again, under the terms independence or self-determination for Macedonia. We see the same scenario also applies to Macedonism. On both occasions when Serbia conquered Vardar Macedonia, Macedonism was forgotten as they attempted to Serbianize the Bulgarians by force. While the Serbians had little success with Macedonism, it was adopted by the YCP because it speciously challenged existing Serbian nationalism. Later the same philosophy was sanctioned by the BCP to portray themselves as champions of understanding between all the Balkan people.

In the final analysis we cannot help but observe that an unofficial alliance had been forged amongst the Serbian ruling-class, the YCP and the BCP purely to prevent the honest aspiration of the Bulgarian-Macedonians for national unification. And that is why Macedonism remains a middle-class policy. The monarchist Serbian regime therefore not only opposed the Bulgarian belief for unification between Bulgaria and Macedonia but also the Bulgarian slogan for autonomy. Serbia viewed an autonomous Macedonia as a much greater threat to its expansionist policies than unification, for within negotiations for the latter Serbia may have been able to secure territorial concessions. An autonomous Macedonia however, could have later united with Bulgaria (cf East Rumelia) in a peaceful program and Serbia would have been totally excluded from the negotiation.

The original hostility of the Serbian kingdom towards the Bulgarian slogan for autonomy was explicitly reflected in its tactics on the Macedonian Question.


Firstly, the Serbian government attempted to establish relations with IMRO, by inferring that it would support their quest for autonomy if they

gave an undertaking not to seek union with Bulgaria
allowed the Macedonian activities of Serbo-Macedonians (Serbomani)
Secondly, they approached the Bulgarian government to negotiate an overall policy on how to divide Macedonia into spheres of influence, that is its partition, if they were victorious against the Turks.

Thirdly, the Serbian government in discussions with the Turks, expressed a view that the Bulgarians represented the greatest threat to the Ottoman Empire and accordingly their organizations should be persecuted and destroyed, while the Turks should recognize a "Serbian" nationality existed within Macedonia.

Fourthly, they attempted to confuse and discourage the Bulgarian national self-realization amongst the people, by promoting a supposition that a large proportion of Slavs (43%) in Macedonia had no national self-awareness and could easily be indoctrinated by the ruling power.

The Bulgarian ruling-class leaders understood the Serbian connivance on the Macedonia Question, but in the interests of forming an united Christian Balkan front against Turkey, they acquiesced to some Serbian ideas (although they always defended the Bulgarian character of Macedonia). Later, however, the ideas of Macedonism, were manipulated and disguised by the Left, then accepted by the BCP as their own, without realizing their totally anti-Bulgarian nature. Consequently in the critical period between 1941-44, the unification issue was influenced by this latter fabrication, and this situation persisted for many years.

In order to highlight the nature of Macedonism and the incalculable damage it has done, several issues are pertinent. Within the history of the Third Bulgarian State a devastating fragmentation of its territory occurred three times. The first was a result of the Berlin Congress (1878) when the San Stefano lands were split into five sections. The second followed the Balkan wars (1913) when a four way division of Macedonia and Eastern Thrace occurred, as well as the loss of national Bulgarian land (South Dobrudja). Thus within the actual borders of Bulgaria remained only 50% of Eastern Thrace and only some 14% of Macedonia. The third, after WWI (1919) involved the appropriation of our national lands, the three parts of the Western Provinces, the Strumma district and Western Thrace, that is our outlet to the White Sea (Aegean). The territorial losses, in 1913 and 1919, can only be described as national tragedies.


That a similar calamity did not occur after WWII reflected our firm stand, even though two foreign countries tried to annex the Rhodope and Pirin regions. For the first time this century, Bulgaria's involvement in a war had not been marked by the loss of territory. That this was achieved is due to our participation in the Fatherland War and the strong support of the Soviet Union at the Paris Peace Conference (February 1947).

The whole truth however is not so kind, for in the immediate post WWII era there was an enormous nationalistic tragedy, of which the majority of people were unaware, because of the parallel Socialist revolution. This tragedy was Bulgaria's renouncing of the struggle for national unification, by promoting the lie that our fellow brother Bulgarians were part of a "Macedonian Nation".

Therefore, while after the previous national "routs" the idea and faith in unification endured, after WWII these dreams were entombed. Bulgaria abandoned both slogans: direct unification and/or the autonomy of Macedonia as a Bulgarian land. While Bulgaria's finest sons and the mass of people in Macedonia resisted Macedonism, the BCP supported their enemies. Our national unity was irrevocably shattered.

Nowhere in moclern Europe have the leaders of a country declared over half their national territory as being foreign land and their own enslaved people there as aliens: Macedonians, Thracians and Dobrudjanians [33]. Accordingly, we ourselves provided all the testimony required for our political opponents to call the communists "Rodootstpnitsi" (Ethno-rejectors).

During that one short interval of time, the BCP decimated Bulgarian history, and denigrated or misrepresented the heroic activities of past revolutionary patriots. The BCP even went further: it selectively magnified the minuscule achievements of MLM renegades, and distorted for many decades the national and patriotic education of the people, particularly the younger generation. This is the painful reality of BCP's initial embrace of the foreign concept of Macedonism and its countenance of "national nihilism". While the April Plenum sought an end to these phenomena, their presence persists and even now our historiography has not completely explained their genesis and repercussions.

Today in Bulgaria the concept of Glasnost permeates all levels of our society. At its core this necessitates a critical self-analysis of all our basic concepts. Changing the thought patterns and preconceptions of people however is a particularly arduous process. We know that amongst us there are still influential people who adhere to Macedonistic ideology as a remnant of the past. Amongst this group are


many members of the BCP who were responsible for the implementation and maintenance of Macedonism as a part of our old political philosophy. Suppression of the historic truth and the confusion of its revelations humiliated our national self-consciousness. This indifference to our own past nurtured Macedonism.

The truth which we discarded yesterday may yet return, but in another form. Therefore today we note the vexing Macedonistic tendencies and activities in some of our younger people, but within an organized authoritative framework. This curiosity could be termed Neomacedonism. It is promoted by both the individuals who support the untruths of yesteryear and the present day foreign powers who have a continual interest in the notion. The time for an open expression of Macedonism amongst the Bulgarian population has past. That is why its proponents hide behind the name of Yane Sandanski. Although he is represented as the brilliant emissary of the Left in IMRO, in reality he was never a Socialist, nor was he even a remarkable revolutionary activist. Embracing the platitude of Sandanism is equivalent to accepting the Bulgarian historic distortions which circulate from Belgrade and Skopje. If we investigate this matter strictly from the factual record then Sandanski's revolutionary prowess is quite minor compared to the image created by a number of lengthy, so-called historic texts and other books which are mainly artistic fiction. It is also significant that the promotion of Sandanski as the apostle of Macedonism occurred totally beyond our borders. Macedonism hides behind what may be designated as Left philosophy and the Class-party approach. Wearing the "mask of Sandanism" harms the national spirit in several unique ways.

it denigrates the Bulgarian national essence of the MLM and impedes the correct development of Bulgarian historiography.

it directly sanctions those past manifestations of sectarian-dogmatism and national nihilism, and thus impedes progress and allows continuance of those distorted notions of the Macedonian Question rampant from the 1930s to the middle 1950s.

by denying the truth it retards the correct patriotic education of younger generations, and thus aids the influence of foreign national (pro-Serbian) ideology.

These false notions directly attack the national unity within Bulgaria itself.

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32. Krste Misirkov (1874-1926) because of his book "On Macedonian Matters" (Sofia, 1903), supporting Macedonism, is often quoted by the Skopje propagandists. However Misirkov's 1903 views had negligible popular support, and his book was read by only a handful of people. Misirkov subsequently repudiated all his own claims in "On Macedonian Matters", spent his final years as a History Professor in Sofia, and in many articles/letters unequivocally affirmed his Bulgarian nationality. These facts are not disclosed by Macedonist historians, who prefer instead to rationalize any of Misirkov's inconsistencies as follows:

"But we must keep in mind his real purposes and aims, and not judge him only by the result of his actions"
(Ristovski B. Macedonian Review. 1984; 14: 38-47).

33. The BCP always considered the Macedonian Question secondary in comparison to advancing the Socialist revolution in Bulgaria, the Balkans and the World. It allowed its infatuation with Internationalism to reach such extremes that in the end the national interests of the Bulgarian people were sacrificed. This is no more apparent than in the three censuses held in Bulgaria in 1946, 1956 and 1965 which recorded the numbers of "Macedonian" nationals as 180 000, 187 789 and 8 750 respectively. These "statistics" have been exploited by the Macedonists to claim that even Bulgaria (more accurately Georgi Dimitrov and the BCP) had admitted the existence of a Macedonian nationality. Recently, archival records from the BCP have become available which further highlight the fabrication associated with both the 1946 and 1956 censuses.

1946 Census: Unlike the normal Census which was supervised by the Office of Statistics, the one in 1946 was controlled directly by the BCP. A resumé of some official documents clearly exposes the deception involved. On 21/12/46 the BCP Regional Committee in Gorna Jumaya received the following report from the secretary Krsto Stoychev:

"As regards tho forthcoming census the Central Committee has decreed that the population in our district be registered as Macedonians"

Also recorded in the official minutes, we read

"the question was raised how to complete the census with respect to the spoken language; and it was decided to let the people write Bulgarian mainly in the cities, and Macedonian mainly in the villages"

The following day, 22/12/46, key personnel of the District Committee were summoned and one of them comments on the advice received:

"in the District Committee we were told that if we did not achieve a greater than 70% Macedonian proportion then we should take our hats and go"

On 24/12/46 the Regional Directorate of the MVR (Internal Security Organization) received from Sofia a circular (No. 3628) which was distributed to all district authorities and mayors. In this circular was the strong implication that the local population was mainly of Macedonian descent. A new and even more unreserved instruction is received on 25/12/46 (circular No. 32B) which demanded that district authorities ensured that city and village mayors fulfil all necessary requirements of the census and that the non-compliant will be severely dealt with. On 27/12/46 the District Governor of Razlog sent the following urgent telegram to all mayors in the district

"By order of the Head Director of Statistics, advise all counters and controllers that for the question of nationality, it should be entered Macedonian except for those who have most recently come from Bulgaria"

During the same day another telegram (No. 10269) was received by the District Governor of Nevrokrop, George Lakov, in which the mayors are ordered

"Don't delay in calling counters and controllers and inform them that when filling in Clause 13 of the Household Card and Clause 5 of the Household List B, nationality is to be entered Macedonian except for the Jews, Gypsies, Turks and recently arrived Bulgarians"

In the proceedings of the Plenum of the Petrich BCP District Committee, held 4th-5th August 1948, it is unequivocally stated

"Under pressure by the Regional Committee we intimidated the counters, and taking advantage of the geographic concept in our explanation, we managed to record 98% of the population as Macedonian. The true situation is that within our district the people see no distinction between the terms Bulgarian and Macedonian. After a thorough education program which accompanied and preceded the census on 31/12/46, we succeeded in convincing the majority of the BCP members in the directive of the Party, to write ourselves as Macedonian, and that any discussion on this subject was closed ......even during the census we forcibly wrote down Macedonian for many of these people"

People opposed to the BCP "denationalization" policy were persecuted. Mr S Boyadjief, current President of IMRO-UMD in Bulgaria, recounts how in 1946 he and thousands of other Bulgarians received long prison sentences (SB 5yr) in the Belene concentration camp for refusing to declare themselves Macedonian.

1956 Census: Although the Tito-Stalin split ended all territorial aspirations for the YCP to annex the Pirin region, BCP support for Macedonism continued. In the aftermath of Stalin's death, and during the new Krushchev era, the devout Stalinist Chervenkov and his followers were gradually removed from power. The April Plenum of 1956 was the turning point for a new direction in the BCP under the leadership of Todor Zhivkov. While a decision was taken to renounce the former UCP policy of Macedonism, the resolutions of the Plenum kept confidential. The public was only informed that the leadership had changed. Subsequent implementation of BCP policy change was very slow and quite subject to Soviet-Yugoslav relations. Only after 1963 did the BCP openly renounce its former contention that a "Macedonian" nationality existed, and then five years later in 1968 the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences was permitted to publish a position paper on the Macedonian Question. In support of this sequence Mr S Boyadjief states that in 1959 he was imprisoned for one year for affirming his Bulgarian rather than Macedonian nationality. The evidence establishes that the figures for both the 1946 and 1956 censuses, in regard to the numbers of self-declared "Macedonians", were falsified by the BCP to support continuing Stalinist policies.