The Early Pseudomacedonism: A Legacy of Bulgarian Irredentism

Historical review of the earliest start of the process termed by the Greek scholar Evangelos Kofos as “mutation”, regarding the creation of the “Macedonian” nation furnishes evidence of exponentiation growth of the Pseudomacedonian secular ideology. This ideology has its roots in pseudohistory, Communist totalitarianism and information darkness within a culture strongly marked with dogmatic thinking and lack of incentive for a serious countercultural opposition instead of complacency.

During the entire national period of FYROM, stretching from the 6th century to 1944, the alleged “Macedonian”nation, precursor of the modern-day, elaborated ethos of Pseudomacedonianism, there is no testimony of “Makedonci (Macedonians) of the type established in 1944 and redefined occasionally ever since. Few Western and Russian scholars wouldn´t agree that the primary relationships between FYROM and Republic of Bulgaria is based on sharing cultural and linguistic features which show marginal change over the wider space constructed from today´s borders of Bulgaria and FYROM. Attempts of Pseudomacedonian Slavs to produce a consistent and referenced historical synthesis are unsuccessful due to lack of historical sources which would facilitate an impression of developed Macedonian nation of Slavic type throughout the history.

Yet the creation of a distinct vis-a-vis Bulgaria and Serbia ethnicity is today an accomplished work. In the light of the problems the construction of a “Macedonian” ethnicity of Western Bulgarian language has posed both internally (identity crisis, fractioning of the population, deconstruction) and with regard to the wider Balkan region (irredentism in form of ethnocentric expansionism), the nature of emergence of “Macedonian” identity remains a valid open question. The primordial “Macedonism” among the Bulgarians and Serbians of today´s FYROM was a spontaneous provincialism after the political separation of Bulgaria and the area of Povardarje via decisions of the Berlin Congress in 1878. The consequent lack of what may be described as intensive enforcement of enlightenment, caused by the lack of statist instrument that would provide the process of national-building left only the preexisting rudimentary institutions, chief of which was the ecclesiastic and schooling system of the Bulgarian Exachate, established in 1870. Because the Serbian factor was diminishing from early 1800´s and the newly-liberated Greek state was spiritual Piedmont of northern Greeks inhabiting Ottoman Macedonia, the Pseudomacedonian identity in the later half of the 19th century represented a prospective option which would serve as basis for Pan-Macedonian irredentism. The Poet Rajko Žinzifov/Xenophon Zinzisi (1839-1878), a Bulgarized Vlach from Veles summed the conflict for symbolical preeminence in verses from his poem “Guslar vo sobor (1862)”:

“Ohrid and Tyrnovo already gave a call Macedonia, strange land Greek she shall never be!

The forest and hill, and a mountain the very stone of that land bird and fish in Vardar river living and dead on their limbs shall rise and give the answer to all of Europe, to the entire world.

I am a Bulgarian woman, I´m a Bulgarian man Bulgarians live in that land!”

The term “Macedonian” quickly became a designation for a Povardarje Bulgarian in Bulgaria, and together with the-undoubtedly artificial-revival of regional names Moesia and Thrace constituted mnemonic and irredentist evocation of areas which were not ethnically exclusively Bulgarian.

As evidenced by the frequent appearance of the term “Macedonian”, coexisting with Bulgarian, the Slavs of Povardarje were becoming more and more influenced by this dual identity. This was the first sign of ethnic mutation, although in this period they do not designate separate identity to the traditional Bulgarian one. The first author that set the proposition of a distinct, nominally Macedonian ethnicity was Ѓorѓi Pulevski. His rather undistinguished, but voluminous literary and historiographic opus didn´t attracted any substantial following. The lack of any success by exclusive Macedonism in late 19th century is flagrant as evidenced by foreign observes which considered the bulk of region´s Slavic population as Bulgarians.

It is only after the foundation of BMORK (Bulgaro-Macedonian Adrianople Revolutionary Committee) in 1893 the idea that the usage of the Macedonian name may be diplomatically lucrative gained prominence.

Memoirs of one of its founder, Hristo Tatarčev, state that the name, including the organization´s slogan “Macedonia to Macedonians” was essentially a trick, designed so that this organization could attract

Macedonian Greek and other Christian following, something that did not happened. Indeed, BMORK changed its name and statute and its eminent members and sympathizers begun to use the ethnic name Bulgarians quite sparsely, if at all. Instead the name “Macedonians”and the corresponding adjectives were used, certainly with the intention to deceive observers from the Great Powers and to create an impression that annexation of the region to Bulgaria was not the political goal of VMRO.

Thus, the Bulgarian “Macedonism” represented a crude dissimulation. Monopolizing the name “Macedonia” elevated the Bulgarian primacy over the entire region, regardless of demographic, political and other realities. The increasing frequency of its usage in political, journalistic and other contexts within the south-western Bulgarian area was the first nucleus of differentiation among the local Bulgarians and those of Bulgarian state although only few of the Povardarje Bulgarians took this identity in order to separate themselves from Bulgaria and Bulgarian heritage. In retrospective, not only that Macedonism before 1913 wasn´t a form of self-identification separate from those of other Balkan´s Slavic and non-Slavic populations, which is evidenced by multitude of contemporary sources, but the earliest concrete manifestation of Macedonism was a case of a naïve artificial nativism, a construct without authentic foundation in that era´s ethnographic reality and without historical, deeper tradition.

Vasko Gligorijević

Skoplje, FYROM


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s