Re: Appeal to OSCE from the ethnic Macedonians
From: MINELRES moderator
Date: Mon, 29 Nov 1999 09:10:11 +0200 (EET)
Subject: Re: Appeal to OSCE from the ethnic Macedonians
Original sender: Stephan Nikolov
Dear Colleagues and Friends,

My name is Stephan E. Nikolov, I am a sociologist and political scientist, and one of my fields of professional interest are minorities in Bulgaria and neighbor countries. In addition to my professional interest, I feel me especially devoted as a person in the fate ot the ethnic groups of former Yugoslavia, since my own background is from areas, which, according to the Neully Agreement of 1919 (by the way, today is the 80th anniversary of it) were given to Yugoslavia as a part of the measures against the defeated Bulgaria.

I want to leave aside, however, each kind of emotions, and to describe only some facts in connection with the so called ethnic Macedonians in Bulgaria. I won't also go too much to the past to avoid entirely the controversial issue about Macedonian nation as a whole and their state. My basis is that there is Macedonian nation with its special identity, incl. language, and here I am not interested if it is a descendant of the ancient Macedonians of Alexander the Great, or a more recent product of the Bulgarian ethnic group.

Authors of the Appeal speak about some 2.5 Mln Macedonians living outside the current borders of the Rep. of Macedonia, i.e., in Albania, Bulgaria, and Greece. This makes about 1 Mln. Macedonians to be residents of Bulgaria. Other sources, for example, the US CIA mentions a number of 250-280 thousand, while the US Department of State puts this number at much lower level. Where is the truth?

When communists seized power in both Yugoslavia - where for the first time a Republic of Macedonia was created as a part of the federal state - and in Bulgaria, under the pressure of Stalin was initiated a process of reunification (cessession) of the Bulgarian part of Macedonia - Pirin Macedonia - with the Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, as well as a more delayed one of integration of Bulgaria itself into Yugoslavia. While the later one was hindered by the international situation, the former - Macedonization of Pirin Macedonia - took some speed especially in 1945-48, i.e., until the famous quarrel between Stalin and Tito and following confrontation between the Moscow-led bloc of communist countries and CPs from Western countries (the so-called Cominformbureau). Recently opened classified papers from the communist archives in Sofia shed light on this process. In the 1946 census in Bulgaria, data from which are largely used as a source to prove the Macedonian identity of the population of Pirin Macedonia, people, residing in the area, which was expected to be ceded to Macedonia/Yugoslavia, were forced to sign as Macedonians. There are hundreds of police or local CP committees reports which reveal how difficult this process was, and which methods were used to meet the CP leadership orders, for example - reports that obedient CP members write in themselves as Macedonians, while non-party members claim to be Bulgarians; then beating, tortures and threats came to permit matching the required number of 70-80% of "Macedonians" in that region.

Instructions were clear: all non-Moslem population - i.e., with the exception of the Bulgarian Moslems (Pomaks), Turks and part of the Roma/Gupsy population - have to be reported as of Macedonian origin, which led to such curious cases as of a Russian emmigre, who suddenly became a Macedonian. It is worth to be mentioned that the then leader of the Bulgarian CP, George Dimitrov, who himself was born in the same area, as well as another leading member of the Politbureau, Vladimir Poptomov, despite being strongly in support of these moves, never ceased to identify themselves as Bulgarians. In the same time, teachers from the Yugoslav Rep. of Macedonia were sent to Bulgarian part of Macedonia to teach children in their "mother tongue" - am enterprise, which proved to be a total failure, because neither the pupils, nor their parents were able to understand well this apparently close, but nevertheless different language. The same repeated with the attempts to spread printed in Skopje newspapers and books: very few were subscribing or buying them, and only the imposed requirements on CP members were saving face of the campaign.

After the confrontation between Moscow and Belgrade, this process was stopped, and a long-years period of alienation between Bulgaria and Yugoslavia came. Many people, who failed on time to change their views according to the shift of the party line, suffered again. But this was only one example of the legacy of the communist past, one of terror and manipulations.

Since the beginning of the postcommunist changes in Bulgaria a census was held in 1992, and after some hot debates, a question about the ethnic and confessional identification was reintroduced. In order mainly to simplify the questionnaire, only three categories, that prevail among population - Bulgarians, Turks, and Roma/Gypsies, plus and "Other" - were provided. Though unaccepted by many interested parties, outcomes revealed that about 87% of the population identifies as Bulgarians, about 9% - as Turks, about 3% - as Roma/Gypsy, and about 1% - as other (among them less than 7,000 - as Macedonians).

My opinion both as a scholar and a person is that numbers are important for the statistics, and they have to be carefully proved, and not to be invented outside the place itself - in Skopje or another places. I know a lot of people in Pirin Macedonia; among these are, indeed, people, who consider themselves as Macedonians, but the vast majority never would deny their Bulgarian origin; moreover - it is namely in that region, probably namely because of the painful historical experience, I've met the most decisive and inspired defenders of the Bulgarian identity.

However, it is totally different issue that if there is even one person, who identifyes him/herself as a Macedonian, his/her view has to be respected. The big difference between the democratic and totalitarian society is that ethnic identification is not an issue to be determined and decided at important high-level sessions behind the doors, but one of a personal choice. That is why I do not approve such steps, which impose any restriction on the right of people to enjoy their own langauage, customs, and culture, incl. in the case of the Bulgarian citizens, who identify themselves as Macedonians. Nothing could justify cases such as police violence against members of the Macedonian national minority, who simply want to put flowers on the grave of Jane Sandanski, a leader of the struggles against the Turkish domination, who is oficially considered in Bulgaria as a Bulgarian hero. And if there are grounds for subversive groups, who explicitly reveal as their main goal secession of Bulgarian territory - because there is no such country in the world which could afford to favour such groups and activities - there are no fair grounds to ban any organization which works in the frames of the national Constitution.

Currently such attempts are under way against the OMO Ilinden PIRIN political party, which was registered by the Sofia district court earlier this year, and was able to receive about 3,000 votes in the recent local elections in Bulgaria, which permitted them to have now two mayors and some members of municipal coincils. Constitutional Court of Bulgaria now is under pressure to proclaim it as anticonstitutional. Bulgarian Constitution has provisions, which outlaw political parties and organizations based on ethnic or confessional divisions - which, indeed, is by far not a democratic solution; however, in the case of OMO Ilinden PIRIN accusations are based only on analogies with other organizations with openly separatistic platforms, and thus a decision to ban it would be far not a democratic and just one.

In any case, both suppression of ethnic rights, and invention of ethnicities, as well as attempts to decide fate of certain population without counsulting their own opinion could severely complicate the Balkan situation, which is enough complicated otherwise.

With great respect and concern,

Sincerely yours,

Stephan E. Nikolov, PhD Editor-in-chief, Bulgarian Sociological Review

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