Macedonia & Its Questions

Origins, Margins, Ruptures & Continuity

by Victor A Friedman (Volume editor) Goran Janev (Volume editor) George Vlahov (Volume editor)
Edited Collection X, 378 Pages

Table Of Content


Victor Friedman, Goran Janev & George Vlahov

Our title purposefully references but simultaneously interrogates and challenges the idea that certain nation-states and certain ethnicities can in some way constitute a “question” while others do not. It is for this reason that we put Macedonia in possession of its questions in our title. What makes Macedonia so contested can be answered by questioning those who would be the questioners. Our aim in this volume is to reframe the terms of investigation. The “Macedonian Question” generally has the status of a problem along with and among its immediate and more distant neighbours. Even the most casual Google search, if properly phrased, can give a sense of the spirit of our times. It also confirms what one might expect: If one types in <the [X] question> the first four or five results vary across a specific spectrum, depending on which ethnicity, region, nationality, or nation-state one types in as [X]. At one end of the spectrum are references that question whether the entity should or even does exist, and if so, who should own it. Here, “Macedonian” is joined by entities such as “Albanian”, “Bessarabian”, and, if one goes far enough back in time, “Bulgarian”, and even further back “French” and “German”. Tellingly, a search concerning “the Greek question” leads one first to articles asking “Where’s the money going to come from?” but not whether “Greek” is a language, ethno-national identity, etc.1 By contrast, the other end of the spectrum will immediately yield references to the grammatical means of forming interrogative sentences, with absolutely no political or other non-linguistic connotations whatsoever, e.g. “the Romanian question” immediately responds with sites that explain how to say ‘who? what? where?’, etc. in Romanian.2 As Keith Brown (2015: 41) has cogently put it: “Whereas scholars appear to have reached broad consensus on using the terms “Greek,” “Bulgarian,” “Serbian” and “Albanian” as ethno-national categories to designate individuals, households, communities and languages [...], they often hesitate to use “Macedonian” in the same way.” In this volume, we make no such hesitations – we take “Macedonian” as a referential term on the same level as “Greek”, “Bulgarian”, “Serbian”, “Albanian”, etc. That said, as in the formation and continuation of every ethno-national identity, there are topics worthy of investigations, and these topics can be phrased in terms of questions. It is such questions, with reference to Macedonia and Macedonian, that we investigate here. Most of the articles in this book are based on papers presented at a conference on Modern Macedonian studies held in the Hellenic Republic. The conference “Macedonia: on the Periphery of European Modernity” was held in Florina, Greece on 16–19 July 2015. The questions that can be asked about Macedonia, as about any ethno-national identity, pertain to the thematics of this volume: origins, margins, and ruptures/continuities. The texts in this interdisciplinary book address these questions and are organized along these three broad themes: A Question of Language, Genealogies & Consequences, and Human Rights & Wrongs.

The section on language begins with Grace Fielder's discussion of how protestant missionary activities in the 19th century both reflected and influenced struggles over the dialectal bases of what would become the Bulgarian and Macedonian standard languages. The contribution by Dimitar Ljorovski Vamvakovski & Donche Tasev is concerned with approximately the same time period, but from a Greek perspective, examining the treatment of the Macedonian language in Greek sources from the Ottoman period. They highlight some remarkable early 20th century exceptions to the Greek nationalist norm of not recognising the Macedonian language. Although this article was completed prior to the ratification of the Prespa Agreement in 2019 the basic points being made continue to be valid. Victor Friedman discusses Macedonian dialects and their relationship to other languages in an area that was long characterized by multilingualism, namely the Kastoria (Macedonian Kostur) region in what is now Greece. Jim Hlavac concludes the section on language by focusing on the feature of code-switching among Macedonian speakers in Australia, who have exhibited a surprisingly high level of language maintenance.

The section on Genealogies & Consequences begins with Akis Gavriilidis tracing aspects of the origins of the Greek nationalist imaginary and a focus on its exclusivist, totalising consequences. Andrew Rossos discusses the political life of Metodija Andonov-Čento and counts him as a victim of the totalitarian tendencies of the Yugoslav Communist Party. Katerina Kolozova concludes the section with an examination of Macedonia's Gruevski led government (2006–2016). Gruevski's manner of governance is viewed as a conservative, authoritarian and patriarchal legacy of the Communist era.

The section entitled Human Rights and Wrongs is begun by Stojko Stojkov and George Vasilev, who, respectively, discuss human rights abuses experienced by members of the Macedonian minorities in Bulgaria and Greece. Vasko Nastevski, utilising the case of Greece, argues that the European Court of Human Rights needs a new judicial approach and lastly, George Vlahov discusses aspects of the recent Prespa Agreement, concluding that it constitutes a case of misrecognition.

Victor Friedman, Goran Janev & George Vlahov

Chicago, Skopje & Melbourne

December 2019


Brown, Keith: Friction in the Archives: On “Macedonians,” Macedonians and the Ottoman Transatlantic. In: Balkanistica, 28 (2015), 41–64.

1 We use this term to refer to the complex intersection between ethnicity and nationality, rather than as a means to refer to manifestations of intolerant nationalism as contrasted with tolerant civic or juridical inclusive nationalisms. Our model here is census documents, such as those used in the Republic of Macedonia, in which “nationality” is a self-ascribed identity that may or may not correspond with a nation-state or ethnic group.

2 In some cases, the nature of the name of the ethnic group requires a different alphabet for the search. A search for the Shop or even Šop, Shopi, or Šopi will yield nothing but mercantile references while Шопският въпрос “the Shop Question” immediately brings up political articles, although the fifth reference is already to jokes rather than politics. Searching “Çam question” brings up only one relevant hit, while “Çam” and “Çamëri” do not bring up any.


1.“Come Over into Macedonia and Help Us”
Evidence for the Macedonian Language in the 19th Century.

Grace E. Fielder

University of Arizona


1. Introduction

This paper builds on a previous discussion of language standardization in Balkan Slavic that compared the intertwined trajectories of the western Macedonian and eastern Bulgarian variants of Balkan Slavic leading up to and following the 1913 partition of Macedonia (Fielder 2015a). The focus here, however, is on the 19th century, when protestant missionary activity in the Balkans provides documented evidence of competition between a western variant (sometimes called “Macedonian”) and an eastern variant (sometimes called “pure Bulgarian”) for what would eventually become the Bulgarian standard language in 1899. A watershed moment in norm selection, i.e. the choice of the eastern variant over the western variant, I will argue, is a “partition” that took place in 1858 when the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM) and American Methodist Episcopal Church agreed to divide Balkan Slavic territory into two missions. The Methodists took responsibility for territory north of the Balkan Mountains and south of the Danube, which they often referred to as “Bulgaria proper”, and the ABCFM the territory to the south (roughly Thrace, Macedonia, and the territory that would become Eastern Rumelia in 1878). This “Missionary Partition” occurred 20 years prior to the Treaty of Berlin, which produced an autonomous Bulgarian principality in June 1878.1 With that treaty the Great Powers created the Principality of Bulgaria, the boundaries of which coincided to a large extent with the territory of the Methodist mission, while south of the Balkan Mountains it established the autonomous province of Eastern Roumelia and left Macedonia within the ←1 | 2→boundaries of the Ottoman Empire. Although the 1858 “Missionary Partition” was not a political one, I would argue that this division is geopolitically significant because it constituted a mapping of Balkan territory by missionaries that foreshadowed emerging national identities and the subsequent boundary drawing by political agents in 1878 as well as having an impact on the sociocultural processes of language standardization.

As discussed in Fielder 2015a, the government in Veliko Tarnovo reacted to the boundaries of the Treaty of Berlin by moving the capital to Sofia in order to be closer to the “lost” Macedonian territories. This move was for the most part symbolic since the ruling elite in Veliko Tarnovo simply relocated en masse bringing with them, among other cultural baggage, their (north) eastern language variant. This resulted in a diglossic situation in which the western variant spoken by the residents of Sofia was marginalized and the eastern variant of the elite newcomers privileged. The Standard Bulgarian that was later signed into law in 1899 specifically excluded and placed in the periphery the very southwestern population of speakers that this elite wanted to claim as one of their own (Videnov 1997: 40–48, Marinov 2013). With the partition of Macedonia in 1913 and the massive influx of refugees from Aegean Macedonia into the capital city of Sofia, over time there has emerged an even more marked, hyper-western variant, particularly among urban youth, that has reinterpreted features of Aegean Macedonian dialects as part of the already ongoing conflict between western and eastern variants of the Standard Bulgarian language. This reinterpretation is in effect a type of “erasure” (Gal and Irvine 1995) whereby the Aegean Macedonian language variant of the refugees has been absorbed into the western periphery of the Bulgarian (eastern) standard language. I argue that a similar erasure took place in the wake of post-1858 language ideology when the competition between eastern and western variants intensified. The role of protestant missionaries and the “transposition”2 of the New Testament into the eastern variant played an influential role in the reinterpretation of the relationship of western and eastern variants of Balkan Slavic, i.e. pre-standardized Macedonian and Bulgarian, respectively, and the valorization of the eastern variant over the western as more appropriate for the language that would be ←2 | 3→called standard or literary Bulgarian. Thus I disagree with Clarke who asserts that

the 1871 Bible [in the eastern variant] and related publications helped establish a Bulgarian literary language for both Bulgarians and Macedonians, thereby reducing the impact of Macedonia on the Bulgarian cultural scene. This, in turn, did foster — but only to a slight degree — Macedonian separatism. The heart of the Macedonian Question was political, not linguistic. (Hupchick 1988: 298–299)

Clarke bases this assessment on what he claims is the first account of the 19th century Bulgarian Bible translation: an "article" by Elias Riggs which appeared in the Missionary Herald in 1872. In fact, there is substantial material published earlier in a variety of missionary reports and correspondence that, when examined using a critical sociolinguistic lens, supports and illuminates the impact of linguistic differences on the Macedonian Question. First, however, it is necessary to provide some background on theSprocess of language standardization and its socio-political context in the next section, based on my earlier discussion in Fielder 2015a. I will then examine the evidence for two competing norms: the (Macedonian) western norm and the (Bulgarian) eastern norm in the first half of the 19th century as documented by protestant missionaries and propose a different interpretation of the impact of Bible translation on the subsequent standardization of both Macedonian and Bulgarian.

2. Language Standardization in the Balkans.

The emergence of standard languages on Balkan territory is closely connected with Herder’s romantic notion of language, culture and Volksgeist. As Mühlhäusler (1996: 358) points out the notion of a ‘language’ is “a recent culture-specific notion associated with the rise of European nation states and the Enlightenment.” It is important therefore to keep in mind that the standardization of languages in the Balkans, like all historical events, occurred at specific times in specific spaces and involved specific actors. With the gradual shrinking of Ottoman-held territory in the 19th century (Serbia became an autonomous principality in 1817, and the Sultan finally recognized the independence of the kingdom of Greece in 1832), the question of how to determine or define nations ←3 | 4→became more pressing. The emphasis of this indivisible nature of language, race and geographic territory in Herder’s ideology set the stage for language standardization as a form of nation building in the 19th century Balkans. Emerging (or potentially emerging) Balkan nations were very aware of what was at stake in language standardization, and this is reflected in the different trajectories of standardization processes for the different languages. At issue was not just discovering or inventing the standard language, but identifying the right kind of language that would capture and represent the essence of the people, as well as ideally be territorially located for the purposes of drawing future political boundaries. Since one goal of language standardization is to authenticate a particular variety of language for a people and/or nation, I have suggested that the standardization of a language is in fact a type of identity formation in which language is equated with the nation, its people, and their character as the supreme metonym (Fielder 2012).

The “language question” in the Balkans, like so many debates over appropriate language, can be viewed as a range of positions with respect to two issues. The first is whether a more archaic and prestigious variant, e.g., New Testament Greek or Old Church Slavonic for Slavic languages, should be used or a vernacular variant that would be more understandable to the wider populace. Support for the archaic variant typically came from the educated elite, in particular the clergy, since they were often the only ones who had control of this variant. Second, if the vernacular option was chosen, then the next choice is whether a particular variant, e.g., a geographical dialect, often of the capital of a country, should be favored or a supradialectal norm be constructed.3 The ideology of language standardization is such that once chosen, this favored variant is then presented as inherently suitable for the functions of a standard language for the given ethnonational group seeking recognition from political actors both within and without the desired territory. This standard language is conceptualized as a natural entity that is already in existence and only waiting to be discovered by the appropriate linguistically gifted speaker with sufficiently recognized authority (see the discussions on language ideology in Coupland 2003, who distinguishes establishment versus vernacular ideological values, and Gal 2006, see also Fielder 2012 and 2015b).

←4 | 5→

However, as Makoni and Pennycook (2007) point out, languages are not essentialist entities, but rather social constructions, invented often as part of Christian, colonial and nationalist projects. Since “the language” and “the people” are co-constructed in a specific socio-historical context, there is usually more than one viable candidate for this vital role. In the first half of the 19th century on South Slavic territory there were a number of different vernacular options in play. The Illyrian variant, for example, conceptualized by Ljudovit Gaj and his followers (mainly Croats living in the Austro-Hungarian Empire) as a pan-Slavic language for all South Slavs (including Bulgarians), competed with Vuk Karadžić’s East Herzegovian variant, promoted initially for vernacular Serbian and then what was eventually to become Serbo-Croatian, and later Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian. The breakup of Yugoslavia and subsequent dissolution of Serbo-Croatian/Croato-Serbian as a unitary national standard language illustrates the interconnectedness and fragility of such inventions.4

It is in this sociolinguistic context that we need to situate the competing variants for what would eventually become the Bulgarian standard language in the second half of the 19th century and the precursor role of vernacular Bible translation.

3. Missionaries, Bible Translation and Language Standardization

The role of missionaries and Bible translation into vernacular languages is a well-documented industry and Bible translation has frequently served as one way for a vernacular language to attain sociopolitical recognition (see Kamusella 2012 for both historical and contemporary discussion). A recent example is the translation of the New Testament into Jamaican patois in 2012, which coincided with the 50th anniversary of Jamaica’s independence from Britain.5 Modern studies of protestant missionary activity in the Balkans have focused on evangelical education and Bible translation as contributing positively to the Bulgarian National Awakening (Clarke 1971, Doğan 2013, and Genov 2001). At the same time, postcolonial studies has problematized missionary activities in ←5 | 6→other areas of the world, such as India and Africa, arguing that missionaries were often complicit, knowingly or not, with the imperialist goals of western colonialism (see, for example, Sugirtharajah 2005 and 2006). The role of protestant missionaries in bringing “The Bulgarian Atrocities” to the attention of the British public in 1876 is one example of missionary influence on political action (Millman 1979 and Saab 1934/1991), since they were often considered by diplomats to be “expert witnesses” with respect to the situation on the ground.6

My own research into the history of Bible translation in the Balkans was initially focused on tracking down details about a particular translation of the New Testament into vernacular Greek completed in the 1820s by Hilarion of Mount Sinai, later Metropolitan of Tirnovo (1821–1827 and 1831–1838) for the British and Foreign Bible Society (BFBS). My goal was to attempt to date more precisely the Konikovo Gospel, a Sunday reader in parallel vernacular Greek and an Aegean Macedonian dialect sometime between the late 18th and early 19th centuries (see Fielder 2015b, Friedman 2008, and Leiwo 2008 for possible date ranges, as well as Lindstedt et al. 2008 for a thorough study of this manuscript). As it turns out Hilarion was also instrumental in supporting the translation of the New Testament into what was then called Bulgarian by teacher and monk Neofit Rilski. Leo Weiner’s 1898 article in Modern Language Notes summarizes the contribution of “Anglo-Saxon” missionaries to Bulgaria, specifically with respect to the role of the American missionary Elias Riggs in the vernacular Bulgarian translation of the New Testament. The following passage particularly caught my attention.

Neophytos himself was a Macedonian, and his translation of the New Testament was made in his native dialect. […] The latter [Elias Riggs] insisted on a pure Bulgarian of the Western (Macedonian) type, since for a time to come he expected to confine his missionary efforts to the country this side of the Balkan Mountains. The Gospels were frequently re-printed and were received by the people with the greatest enthusiasm, and for a period of two decades served as a model for the written idiom of the nation. Later, when culture penetrated into Bulgaria Proper, this abnormal state of raising a dialect spoken beyond the provinces of the country to the ←6 | 7→dignity of a literary language could not be maintained. (Weiner 1898: 38–39)

Here is a claim by an American scholar (Harvard’s first Slavic Professor, in fact) with access to extensive written records,7 i.e. reports, journals, correspondence of missionaries who lived in the Balkans and worked with the vernacular languages as part of the Bible translation mission, that for two decades, namely 1840–1860, the western Macedonian dialect served as the model for the written language of what was then called Bulgarian. This time period corresponds roughly to the second of Friedman’s four periods for the development of Macedonian language and supports his assertion that at this time many intellectuals favored a common Macedo-Bulgarian language based on the western variant.

I.1794c.1840: The period of the first published texts employing Macedonian dialects. The awakening of a Slavic national consciousness.

II.c.18401870: The period of the first textbooks. Many intellectuals favor a common Macedo-Bulgarian literary language based to a large extent on Macedonian.

III.18701913: The period of the first grammars and nationalist publications. Establishment of Bulgarian Exarchate, Ilinden, partition of Macedonia.

IV.19131944: Development of Macedonian literature and establishment of Macedonian literary language.

(Friedman 2000:193–194)

Some historical context concerning the initial activities of protestant missionaries in what they called European Turkey is in order since they fall within Friedman’s first period, namely the awakening of a Slavic ethno-national ←7 | 8→consciousness as distinct from Greek. The BFBS was established in 1804, and in 1819 Robert Pinkerton obtained the permission of the newly appointed Patriarch Gregory V for the translation of the New Testament into vernacular Greek, Bulgarian and Albanian. This meeting was subsequent to Jernej Kopitar’s extensive correspondence with the BFBS and its agents in 1815 and Pinkerton’s personal meeting with Kopitar in 1816 in Vienna. At the time Kopitar was advocating for Vuk Karadžić to translate the New Testament into vernacular Serbian (or rather the eastern Herzegovinian dialect favored by Vuk) for the BFBS, as well as proposing Bible translations into Bulgarian, Wallachian and Albanian. Pinkerton’s subsequent report to the BFBS on the Slavic dialects8 and what vernacular translations would be desirable was clearly informed by Kopitar’s views. (See Kuzmić 2004 for the relationship of Kopitar, Pinkerton and the BFBS and the Serbian New Testament). Thus when Pinkerton traveled in 1819 to Constantinople he had already been made aware that there were (Bulgarian) Slavic and Albanian speakers in addition to Greek speakers in the Ottoman Empire, which explains his motivation for adding Albanian and Bulgarian to the BFBS original request for the approval of a vernacular Greek translation of the New Testament.9

It is also worth noting that at this particular point in time, regardless of Kopitar’s own views on South Slavic dialects and languages, Bulgarian was not universally acknowledged by language scholars as a separate language from Serbian. In fact Friedman (2000: 173) points out that it was only in 1822 that Vuk Karadžić persuaded Slavist Jozef Dubrovský of the difference and even later, only in 1868, that the Serb state adopted Vuk’s vernacular Serbian for the literary language in place of the archaic (Russian) Church Slavonic variant (de Bray 1980: 78, 312; Lunt 1984: 115, Naylor 1980: 80, cited in Friedman 2000). Friedman (2000) argues that it was strong political forces that prevented Macedonian from becoming a standard language until 1945, as was not the case with Serbian and Bulgarian.10 In addition to these strong political forces, I argue ←8 | 9→that the missionary sponsorship of Bible translations into vernacular Balkan Slavic also influenced the different outcome of language standardization on Balkan Slavic territory.

Neofit Rilski’s translation was approved by Metropolitan Hilarion of Tărnovo and published in 1840 in Smyrna by the BFBS using the American mission press. Neofit, who was born in Bansko in the Pirin Macedonia region, had already published what he called a Bulgarian grammar in 1835 that would also fall within Friedman’s second period (the dates of which are approximate). It is one of the first grammars of Bulgarian and discusses in the introductory material the wide variation along the Balkan Slavic dialect continuum. His goal was a compromise language purged of foreign words and with dialect differences resolved, such as those between articles and verbs, in order to prescribe a language representative of all Bulgarian speakers and supersede any regional variants. In general the grammar favors the western variant, as can be seen in the present tense paradigm for the third conjugation (reproduced below from pages 138–139).

Further support for the acceptance by protestant missionaries of the western variant as a working standard language is provided by Elias Riggs’ 1844 Notes on Bulgarian Grammar, which is clearly influenced by Neofit’s grammar. Riggs presents the same western features of verb conjugation (above), the ←9 | 10→masculine definite article in –o, rather than –ăt/-ă, and the imperfective verbal suffix -uva-, among other western features.11

The BFBS’s favoring of Neofit Rilski’s western variant until 1858 is supported in Riggs’ 1872 account in the Missionary Herald which was primarily intended as a summative report on the history of the Bulgarian Bible (and seems to be the main source utilized for Weiner’s article). He recounts the facts of publication of Neofit Rilski’s New Testament translation, as well as his own role in editing the 1850 reprint and then later as head of the team that worked on the revised translation published in 1866. So this firsthand account would seem to be the most reliable, although it should be kept in mind that its purpose was to provide information that justified past editorial decisions, rather than make claims about language and ethnicity or argue for the inherent qualities of either the western or eastern dialect.

During the period from 1840, when Mr. Photinoff read in Smyrna the proof-sheet of the first edition of the New Testament, to December 1858, when he died, a rapid change had been taking place in the Bulgarian language, and it became manifest that the translation of the Scriptures must undergo a thorough revision. At the beginning of this period, the Western (or Macedonian) dialect of Bulgarian had been cultivated much more than the Eastern (or that of Bulgaria proper), which, however, in many respects more nearly resembled the ancient Slavic; but its close, the Eastern dialect was manifestly taking the lead. The proportion of publication in the two had been reversed, and in a tour taken by Mr. Byington and myself in the autumn of 1859, we found the teachers all through Macedonia readily and unanimously acknowledged that their language was destined to be mainly molded after the Eastern model. With equal unanimity they held and expressed the view, that the language was to be one and not two. The translation of both the Old and New Testaments had been prepared in the Macedonian dialect. (Riggs 1872: 76)

Here Riggs confirms that Neofit’s translation was “very faithfully, and ably prepared.” The motivation for a revised translation then was not because of ←10 | 11→a lack of quality of the 1840 translation or inadequacy of its language but rather the emergence of the Eastern dialect12 as dominant. Riggs does not, however, provide any concrete information about how this emergence came about, nor how he became aware of it. His choice of the phrase “rapid change” suggests that he was taken by surprise when he learned of the shift. One interpretation could be that the death of Fotinov, who had been translating the Old Testament into the western variant, had presented an opportunity for other voices to be heard.

My examination of available reports of the BFBS from 1856 and 1862 indicate that when Riggs left Constantinople for the US in 1856, there was every expectation that he would begin to edit Fotinov’s translation of the Old Testament as soon as he returned. There is nothing in the documents I have examined that would suggest there were concerns about the translation as it was progressing, and in fact there were immediate plans to reprint and disseminate Neofit Rilski’s current (western) translation of the New Testament. Nowhere does the issue of what variant the translations are in appear, nor is there is any criticism of either translation. My question then is why precisely in 1858 does Riggs learn that 1) there are two variants, 2) that the eastern variant is now dominant over the western, and 3) that the difference between the two variants is such that a revision of previous translations is necessary. In fact, the first mention of this issue of a western versus eastern variant that I have been able to find is in the 56th Report of BFBS 1860. These reports are aggregative and thus there is a lack of consistency or narrative coherence. On page 92, there is a statement by BFBS agent Benjamin Barker from the earlier part of the year [1859] that gives no indication of a problem with the translation, in fact just the opposite.

With regard to the edition [Bulgarian], I have to report a very favourable account. Dr. Riggs and the Bulgarian Professor [Fotinov] have nearly read and examined the whole of the New Testament you sent me by post, and they are both very much pleased with it; they have not detected as yet any errors in it.

←11 | 12→

However, just two pages later (pp. 94–95), this same report includes the following excerpt from correspondence by S. B. Bergne, Superintendent of the Translating and Editing Department, who reports on a long conversation he had with Riggs in Constantinople about the progress of the Bulgarian Bible. This conversation took place later that same year in November, after Riggs had completed his tour of ABCFM territory south of the Balkan Mountains. The tone of this account when compared to that of Weiner is striking and, I would argue, Bergne’s assessment of the competition between the two variants reflects a more objective and less ideological one made at the time the issue of dialect (and presumably a discussion of its implications) came up.

It appears that there is some difference between the Macedonian or Western, and the Eastern dialects of the Bulgarian. Formerly the Western dialect was in the ascendant, but latterly it is becoming superseded by the Eastern. There is a Review and several Newspapers published in Bulgaria; these adopt the Eastern dialect; and there is every probability that, in a short time, it will push out the Western dialect so far as the literary character of the language is concerned. […] Poor Photinoff, […] in the early part of the work [the Old Testament translation] favoured the Western dialect; but in correcting the work, as well as in the latter portion of the translation, he adopted the Eastern dialect; and Dr. Riggs feels assured that if his life had been spared, he would have followed this course throughout the whole translation. Either dialect can be read in all parts of the country, but as the Macedonian is going into disuse, so far as literature is concerned, it would be extremely undesirable that it should be adopted in the Scriptures.

The rising cultural capital (Bourdieu 2003) of the eastern versus the western variant appears to be based on its use in non-BFBS publications now coming out of the more developed and economically prosperous northeast, an example of the interconnectedness of print-capitalism and national identity (Anderson 1983). This suggests that the decision by the missionaries to adopt the eastern variant was based on a pragmatic desire to provide the Bible in the same variant being used in current publications. In fact, the following excerpt from correspondence written two years later by Rev. Robert Thomson of BFBS specifically names the “vigorous efforts of a number of Bulgarian literati at the ←12 | 13→capital [Veliko Tirnovo13]” as the major force behind the shift in prestige between the two variants.

Early in spring, the first of the three volumes of the Bulgarian Old Testament was put into circulation. It had originally been prepared, like the New Testament, in the Western dialect, which some twelve years ago was, and promised to be, the literary language of Bulgaria. Since then, however, chiefly in consequence of the vigorous efforts of a number of Bulgarian literati at the capital, the decided preponderance has been secured for the Eastern dialect; so that while the existing version of the New Testament will still be acceptable, and even indispensable in Macedonia, for at least several years to come; it was obviously desirable to adapt the version of the Old Testament to the now victorious rival dialect of the East, and to contemplate the early preparation of a revised version of the New Testament in the Eastern dialect also. Both of these steps have been taken. (58th Report of BFBS 1862: 90)

In this passage Thomson characterizes the two dialects as rivals, which is consistent with a pre-standardization period in which more than one variant is used, often with differing stylistic or register values, until ultimately one is singled out as preferred. The question arises then why the “Bulgarian literati” were being heard at this particular point in time. Why did Riggs undertake a tour of Macedonia in 1859 to make what Clarke has described as a “canvas of the literary language situation” in which Riggs states that Bulgarian speakers in Macedonia all supported the eastern variant (Hupchick 1988: 369–370)? In actual fact, Riggs’ observations are more nuanced than Clarke’s account (see below), and he had another goal as well – to determine which town would be most suitable for a new mission station to train local teachers. More importantly the reason for this need for a new mission station had arisen because of a new joint missionary endeavor undertaken by the ABCFM and Methodist Episcopal Board in 1858 (Shashko et al. 2001, Hamlin 1881).

←13 | 14→

The establishment of a Protestant millet in 1850 (Abu-Jaber 1967: 217) followed by the 1856 Islahat decree which guaranteed religious equality for all in the Ottoman Empire fueled a surge in the sentiment that the Balkans, and in particular Bulgaria, were ripe for evangelical missionary activity (Doğan 2013: 81–84). In 1844 the ABCFM had finally abandoned its Greek mission, which included Bulgarian-speaking territories, due to Greek clerical opposition, which had only intensified after the Greek Revolution in 1821, and the establishment of an ethno-national Autocephalous Greek Orthodox Church in 1833 by the Catholic King Otto (Kitromilides 2006: 234–235). This opposition coincided with increased efforts to Hellenize the non-Greek speaking inhabitants (Friedman 2008, Gazi 2009: 99–101). Accounts of the Greek clergy interfering with the dissemination of vernacular Greek and Bulgarian Bibles become a constant topic in reports to various missionary groups such as BFBS and ABCFM (see, for example, Browne 1859: 49). Nonetheless, in 1856 Cyrus Hamlin, the founder of Robert College, returned to the US charged by the Constantinople station to argue the case for starting up a new mission among the Bulgarians. While the ABCFM was in principle in favor of such an effort, it lacked the financial resources and sent Hamlin to solicit the cooperation of the Methodist Episcopal Board (Hamlin 1881: 262, Nestorova 1985: 11–13, Clarke 1971: 299). The result was an agreement that in effect partitioned what the missionaries at that time were calling Bulgaria. The Methodists took responsibility for what would be referred to as “Bulgaria Proper” north of the Balkan Mountains and south of the Danube. Since the ABCFM had already been working in Roumelia, Rodosto and Adrianople, they took responsibility for the territory to the south of the Balkan Mountains. In May 1857 Hamlin “went as an explorer” to this area, including Philippopolis (Plovdiv) where he described the resistance of Bulgarians to Hellenization efforts of the Greek clergy. After his report was filed and accepted, the Bulgarian mission south of the Balkans was inaugurated (Hamlin 1881: 262–272). Note, however, that the southern territory Hamlin toured did not include Aegean Macedonia, presumably due to the more intense antagonism of the Greek clergy there. Clarke addresses the place of Macedonia in the partition (without actually specifying what constituted Macedonia).

The division of labor between the Methodists and the American Board (after 1870 almost entirely Congregationalist) did not specify the third ←14 | 15→Bulgarian component, Macedonia, but it was assumed to be American Board territory. Initially, it was also assumed that Sofia was Methodist, especially as it formed part of the Ottoman Duna, or Bulgarian vilayet, until 1876. (Hupchick 1988: 367)

According to Clarke (Hupchick 1988: 369–370), Riggs toured Macedonia in 1859 with Byington to perform a “canvas of the literary language situation” and found "Bulgarians" in Macedonia all speaking "Bulgarian" and supporting the eastern variant.14 However, a compilation of primary materials published in 2001 contains an excerpt from Riggs’ journal (translated into Bulgarian) in which he makes clear that this was not his only goal. He states that his goals were to determine what town would be the most appropriate location for a new school, to select a station for Byington’s next post and to study the Bulgarian language spoken in these regions in terms of style and idioms (2001: 32). The pair sailed from Constantinople to Solun, stopping at Kavala and Mt. Athos. The towns that were visited were: Yeni (a small Turkish town where the Turks all spoke Bulgarian), Monastir/ Bitolja, Kjuprjuli/ Veles, Juskjup/ Skopje, Kumanova, Egri-dere Palanka/ Kriva Palanka, Kjustendil, Dupnitsa, Samokov, Filipopol/Plovdiv, and Eski Zagra.15 but perhaps most importantly Rila and Rila Monastery to meet with Neofit Rilski. Note that what is now Aegean Macedonia is not included in this itinerary. Again this is most likely because the missionaries in the field felt that any further south would be problematic in terms of dealing with the Greek clergy, even though Barker had reported on Bulgarians speaking Bulgarian in Seres and Drama during his tour in 1827 (cf. Missionary Register 1827, pp. 429–431). It is possible that Riggs limited his tour to towns where there were already Bulgarian schools, which would have excluded Aegean Macedonia. This geographical restriction, however, would also have been influenced by the ←15 | 16→forces of Hellenization. The situation was different north of the Balkan Mountains where the appointment of a Greek bishop rather than a Bulgarian to replace Hilarion in 1838 sparked protests (Roudmentoff and Robertson 2001: 133). Recall that Metropolitan Hilarion of Veliko Tărnovo not only supported Neofit Rilski’s vernacular translation, but also wrote an impassioned argument to the Holy Synod defending translation into the vernacular, both Greek and Slavic.16 Regardless of the reason, in effect, what took place in 1858–59 was a partition of Macedonia by virtue of mapping what missionaries considered Bulgaria. This exclusion of Aegean Macedonia then has ramifications for how we interpret the significance of Konikovo Gospel. Fielder (forthcoming) argues that Pavel Božigropski’s editing of the Aegean Macedonian manuscript in preparation for publication was an act of linguistic identity (Le Page and Tabouret-Keller 1985). Božigropski must have known of Rilski’s translation but rejected this western language variant as not sufficiently representative of the western-central dialect that he favored in his editorial changes (Friedman 2008).

Riggs’ more detailed observations on language presented in the Shashko et al. (2001) publication of his journal entries are quite informative. Unfortunately Riggs is frustratingly parsimonious with the details of his conversation about language with Neofit Rilski (although he does describe in some length Neofit’s dictionary project).

Узнах неговото мнение относно някои особености в българския стил и за някои промени, които езикът е претърпял. (Shashko et al. 2001: 37)

I learned his opinion on certain features of Bulgarian style and some changes that the language has undergone.17

Clarke (1971: 292), however, provides more detail which he footnotes as coming from Riggs’ Journal II.

Neofit admitted that if he were to translate it again he would modify his style in some respects, and that certain verb-endings he had used were ←16 | 17→“Servianisms,”18 but that he liked them because they were more regular.1 [= 1 Riggs Journal II, Oct. 3, 1859] This merely confirmed the opinion Riggs had already formed about the progress in the literary language, as a result of earlier inquiries among Bulgarian teachers and writers.

There is a discrepancy then between what is presented in the Shashko 2001 version of Riggs’ journal when compared to Clarke’s version, so it is not clear whether the 2001 version of the journal has been redacted or perhaps Clarke had additional sources he did not cite.

In the Shashko 2001 journal, Riggs does state that the language spoken in Skopje is significantly different from what he was used to.

г) Диалектът, на който се говори тук, значително се различава от този, на който се говори в други български селища и който ние използваме в нашите книги, а това ще бъде допълнително препятствие, особено ако има възражения срещу това място като център за обучение на местни помощници. (Shashko 2001: 35)

The dialect, which is spoken here [Skopje], significantly differs from those spoken in other Bulgarian villages and [from] what we use in our books, and this will be a further obstacle, especially if there are objections against this location as a center for training local assistants.

By contrast, Riggs concludes that Philippolis (Plovdiv) has a distinct advantage over Skopje since it is located in the center of a large region that speaks Bulgarian (Shashko 2001: 41–42).19 The details of Riggs’ conversation with the Bulgarian teacher at Samokov are informative about the linguistic situation overall.

Учителят каза, че изпитва известни неудобства от факта, че Самоков се намира точно на границата между райони, в които се говорят различни диалекти на българския език. На изток се говори чистият български език. По-надолу, на югозапад се говори македонски ←17 | 18→диалект, а на северозапад — същия само че доста повлиян и видоизменен от сърбския. Всички тези диалекти имат свои прадставители в неговот училище. Но той без колебание взима за образец граматиката, публикувана на източния диалект. (Shashko 2001: 38)

The teacher said that he felt rather uncomfortable with the fact that Samokov is located exactly on the border between regions where different dialects of Bulgarian are spoken. In the east they speak the pure Bulgarian language. Farther down, in the southwest the Macedonian dialect is spoken, and in the northwest the same, but significantly influenced and changed by the Serbian. All these dialects are represented in his school. But he [the schoolteacher] without hesitation takes as a model the grammar published in the eastern dialect.

Like the teachers in Bitola and elsewhere whom Riggs has interviewed (and note that he only reports on interviews with teachers, rather than common folk), the teacher in Samokov endorses the eastern variant. Given that most of the teachers in this area tended to have been educated in Russia and many of the books used in Bulgarian schools were from Russia (Yerlenkhov 1959: 78) as well as perception of the eastern variant as closer to Russian, this endorsement is not surprising. It may also be the case that Riggs had already made up his mind about preferring the eastern to the western variant and this could have influenced his conversations with the teachers. Without access to Riggs’ original journal, we can only surmise.

In any event, when Riggs returned to Constantinople, it is telling that Barker recommended Hristodul Kostovich, a speaker of the western variant, to take Fotinov’s place as translator in 1859. Petko Slaveikov, a proponent of the eastern variant, was actually not involved in the translation project until several years later when in the spring of 1862 Albert Long, a Methodist missionary stationed in Veliko Tărnovo, and Riggs met with him in his home town of Trjavna (Dafinov 1997: 178). Later Riggs’ own retrospective account of 1872 presents this team as constituted from the very beginning of a western and eastern native speaker plus an editor who knew the western variant (Riggs) and another (Long) familiar with the eastern variant. In fact it was 1863 before the team of Riggs, Kostovich and Long began to edit Slaveikov’s revised translation of the ←18 | 19→New Testament. The fact that there was a team of two translators and two editors, one for each variant, is in itself significant. The implication is that Riggs had not made a value judgment that the western variant was now unacceptable, but rather that the intent was for the language of the planned publication of what was now to be the Bible in its entirety, i.e. Old Testament and New Testament, be acceptable and stylistically coherent to its primary audience, Bulgarian speakers. The participation of two translators suggests that the very process of Bible translation was being used as a means of establishing norms, in which both the western and the eastern were contenders. This is consistent with Riggs’ own characterization of the process “We felt that the result which could be reached harmoniously by us all would be likely to prove generally acceptable” (1872). A comparison of the 1840 translation with that of 1871 to see just what has been changed would prove most enlightening. Clarke declined to engage in such a comparison as irrelevant (Hupchick 1988: 295–296), but from a linguistic point of view the results would be invaluable data regarding the process of negotiating norms for this period of time.

5. Some Concluding Thoughts

The emergence of the Macedonian Question in the wake of the movement for an independent Bulgarian Church, which was finally recognized in 1871, appears to have been something of a surprise for the missionaries not only because it did not materialize as the anticipated second protestant reformation of the Bulgarians, but also because of the real world ramifications of their 1858 partition as noted by Clarke below.

The “Proper Bulgaria” concept was catastrophic for future Bulgaria, notably the artificial trisection spelled out at the Congress of Berlin, and for Macedonia in 1912–1913. It was also a headache and drawback for the two American missionary societies interested in the Bulgarians. (Hupchick 1988: 366)

The following statement by Clarke, which he presents as “proof” that there was no Macedonia separate from Bulgaria, rather reveals the naiveté of the American missionaries with respect to ethno-nationalism in the Balkans.

←19 | 20→

Before Macedonia became a “Question,” the American missionaries were not aware of any essential differences between Bulgaria and Macedonia, or between Bulgarians in Bulgaria and those in Macedonia, except for one thing: the existence of a western and an eastern Bulgarian “dialect.” (Hupchick 1988: 367)

I find it ironic and somewhat disturbing that the fact that the American missionaries were unaware of any “essential differences” does not diminish the authority accorded them by Clarke, and subsequently echoed by other scholars such as Nesterova and Genov. More importantly, the one distinguishing feature that these missionaries did recognize and make note of was precisely the difference in language. In other words, there is ample evidence in the historical records that there was in the first half of the 19th century a distinctly Macedonian versus Bulgarian “way of speaking.20 The eventual standardization of Bulgarian in 1899 and Macedonian in 1945 was very much the result of specific sociocultural and historical circumstances – the earlier recognition of Bulgarian was due, among other factors, to the emerging dominance of the northeast, or “Bulgaria Proper”, toward the end of the century, rather than any inherent intrinsic value of one variant over the other.21

←20 | 21→

Clarke had access to a number of primary sources, including, perhaps most importantly for the question at hand, the journal of Elias Riggs and his extensive correspondence. How Clarke interpreted this information was, I suspect, to some extent influenced by his own position as the grandson of James F. Clarke, one of the first Methodist missionaries in Samokov (now Bulgaria). This relationship resulted in what was perhaps a tendency to romanticize or idealize the activities of the missionaries and to overestimate their expertise. While their intentions may have been for the good, and certainly their efforts to make the facts of “The Bulgarian Atrocities” known to the world were positive steps in terms of social justice, they did have their own evangelical agenda. It happened, however, that the complex interplay between the education and printed materials that the missionaries provided and their acceptance by Christians in the Balkans served nation-building purposes. The Bulgarian Church Question was as much an ethno-national as religious movement as the missionaries discovered to their dismay and disappointment. To be fair, the multilingual situation on the ground during the 19th century by all accounts was quite complicated. Pinkerton as an agent for BFBS was no doubt primed by his meeting with Kopitar in Vienna 1816 to discover Bulgarian, Albanian and Greek speakers in the Ottoman Empire, so it is no surprise that that is what was found. It is rather disingenuous on the part of Riggs to think that in the 19th century the local inhabitants would be able to distinguish whether they speak Bulgarian as opposed to Macedonian, when even today the language that rural speakers from villages on either side of the border identify their way of speaking as naš or ‘ours’.

One motif that has emerged here is the importance of distinguishing what was said at the time, e.g., Bergne’s account of his long conversation with Riggs in Constantinople immediately following his tour of Macedonia, as opposed to what was said in hindsight, e.g., Weiner’s summary of the history of the Bulgarian Bible, and evaluating the information accordingly. With respect to this distinction it is instructive to consider the public reaction of Petko Slaveikov, the representative of the eastern variant on the Bulgarian Bible translation team, when confronted in 1871 by the “Macedonian Question”.22 The first excerpt from ←21 | 22→his editorial in Makedonija is a reflection on the problem of how to decide upon a norm when there are competing variants.

Колкото е крыво да ся учатъ Македончетата по нарѣчiето на горнитѣ българи, толкозь е криво и това дѣто да ся дроби языкътъ въ училищата на всякаквы нарѣчiя и всякой да слѣдва своето, без наймалко вниманiе къмъ другытѣ. Въ такъвъ случай всяко нарѣчiе трѣба да има своѭ книжевностъ и никоя да не достигне онова състоянiе което трѣба да има като книжевностъ на цѣлъ народъ. Разлика въ нарѣчiята има у всичкытѣ европейскы народы, и даже много по голѣма отъ колкото у насъ; но ни единъ отъ тѣзи народы не е помыслялъ да раздроби учебныйтъ си языкъ на множество нарѣчiя и литературы. Тѣ сѫ избрали единъ срѣденъ пѫтъ и сѫ прiели само единъ учебенъ языкъ, който е вече по-напрѣднѫлъ въ тѣхъ. Това трѣбаше да направимъ и ный. Отъ всичкытѣ нарѣчiя трѣбаше да изберемъ едно срѣдне, което да бѫде понятно на всичкытѣ области, и на него да учимъ дѣцата си. Това ще бѫде и право, и разумно, и полезно, защото ще упази единството на нашiй народъ. (Slaveikov 1871)

However wrong it is to teach the little Macedonians in the dialect of the upper Bulgarians, it is just as wrong to split the language in the schools into various dialects, everyone following their own dialect and paying no attention to the others. In this case each dialect should have a literature of its own and never attain the stage it should have as the literature of a whole nation. There are differences in the dialects among all the European peoples, even far greater than among us; but not one of those peoples has ever thought of dividing the literary language into many dialects and literatures. They have chosen a middle way and have adopted one literary language only, the one that was the most advanced among them. We should have done this, too. We should have chosen one middle dialect from all the others, which should be understandable in all the regions, and ←22 | 23→should have taught our children in it. This would have been both just, reasonable and useful, because it would preserve the unity of our people.

While Slaveikov seems to acknowledge here that the choice of the eastern variant was a mistake because it excluded Macedonian speakers, his explanation and proposed solution (from the same article, given below) seem rather naïve with respect to the realities of how language, power and identity operate in the real world.

Едно просто обстоятелство, това, дѣто горнитѣ Българе до сега пишѫтъ на свое нарѣчiе безъ най-малко вниманiе къмъ Македопското, то ся зема отъ Македонцы като знакъ за горнинѫ на горнитѣ българе и за стремленiе да заповѣдатъ. Но работата е далечь отъ таквози значенiе, ный пишемъ на нашето нарѣчiе, защото него знаймы, а не отъ незачитанiе на македонското. Кога ся усили между насъ изученiето на языка и ся познае нуждѫтѫ за общъ книжевенъ языкъ, ный съ най-голѣмо благодаренiе ще пишемъ на македонско нарѣчiе, ако ся види това за добро и полезно, или ще заемемъ отъ него онова което е необходимо за допълненiе.

One simple circumstance, i.e., that the upper Bulgarians have up to now written in their dialect without paying any attention to the Macedonian one, is considered by the Macedonians to be a sign of the arrogance of the upper Bulgarians and of their tendency to command. But the real problem is far from this suggestion; we write in our dialect because it is what we know, and not out of any lack of esteem for the Macedonian one. Once we strengthen language study in our country and understand the need for a general literary language, we shall write with the greatest gratitude in the Macedonian dialect, if we find it good and useful, or we shall take from it what is necessary as supplementation.

The fact that the path that Slaveikov suggested, i.e. the inclusion of the Macedonian way of speaking in the Bulgarian way of speaking, did not materialize makes it clear why Macedonian speakers felt both the desire and the ←23 | 24→need to standardize a language variant that they identified with.23Clarke has implied that Macedonian is a “new literary language” brought into existence, ex nihilo, by decree of the Yugoslav leader Tito in 1945 (Hupchick 1988: 298). As the historical evidence presented here demonstrates, the fact that Macedonian standardization did not take place until 1945 reflects extralinguistic factors, as does the standardization of the eastern over the western variant for the Bulgarian standard language, and in no way diminishes the validity of Macedonian either as a standard language today nor as an authentic language of communication prior to standardization.24

←24 | 25→


Bible Society, 23rd Report of the British and Foreign Bible Society. 1827. https://books.google.gr/books?id=wVFCpyi-T28C

Bible Society, 54th Report of the British and Foreign Bible Society. 1858.25 https://books.google.gr/books?id=KRYFAAAAQAAJ

Bible Society, 55th Report of the British and Foreign Bible Society. 1859. https://books.google.gr/books?id=KRYFAAAAQAAJ

Bible Society, 56th Report of the British and Foreign Bible Society. 1860.26 https://books.google.gr/books?id=aBYFAAAAQAAJ

Bible Society, 58th Report of the British and Foreign Bible Society. 1862. https://books.google.gr/books?id=aBYFAAAAQAAJ

Missionary Register. 1820. p. 30.https://play.google.com/books/reader?id=tjhQAQAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&output=reader&hl=en

Missionary Register. 1827. pp. 429–431. London. https://play.google.com/books/reader?printsec=frontcover&output=reader&id=R0UUAAAAYAAJ&pg=GBS.PP5

Новый Завѣтъ на Господа нашего Іисуса Христа, вѣрно и точно прѣведенъ отъ пьрвообразното. Transposed to the Eastern dialect by Petko R. Slaveikov and N. Mikhailovski. Revised by E. Riggs and A. L. Long.] (Constantinople, 1866). 3061.a.7.(1.). (Digitised at:<http://books.google. com/books?vid=BL:A0017100786>)

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Browne, G.: The History of the British and Foreign Bible Society, From Its Institution in 1804, to the Close of Its Jubilee in 1854. Vol. I. London: Watts, 1858.

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Clogg, Richard: Enlightening “a poor, oppressed, and darkened nation”: Some Early Activities of the BFBS in the Levant. In Batalden et al. (Eds.): 2004, 237–275.

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Friedman, V.: The Modern Macedonian Standard Language and its Relation to the Modern Macedonian Identity. In: Victor Roudometof (Ed.): The Macedonian Question: Culture, Historiography, Politics. Boulder, CO: East European Monographs, 2000, 173–201.

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Naylor, K.: Serbo-Croatian. In: Schenker & Stankiewicz, 1980, 65–83.

Riggs, E.: The Bible in Bulgarian. The Missionary Herald, Containing the Proceedings of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (1821–1906), 68 (1872) 3, 76.

Riggs, E.: Dnevnik ot edno pǎtuvane, napraveno s prepodobnijq S. L. Baingtăn v Evropejska Turcija pres septemvri — oktomvri 1859 g. In: Shashko, P., B. Greenberg, and R. Genov (compilers), N. Živkova and R. Genov (translators): Amerikanski pǎtepisi za Bǎlgardia prez 19v. Sofia: Planeta–3. 1859 [2001], 32–42.

Riggs, E.: Notes on the Bulgarian Grammar. Smyrna, 1844.

←30 | 31→

Rilski, Neofit: Bolgarska Gramatika. Kragujevec: Mustakovi Bros. 1835. <https://www.wdl.org/en/item/4117/>

Rossos, Andrew: Macedonia and the Macedonians: A History. Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press, 2013.

Roudometof, V. and Robertson, R.: Nationalism, Globalization, and Orthodoxy: The Social Origins of Ethnic Conflict in the Balkans. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2001.

Saab, A. P.: Reluctant Icon: Gladstone, Bulgaria, and the Working Classes, 1856–1878. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1934 [1991].

Schenker, A. M., Stankiewicz, E., and Iovine, M. S.: The Slavic Literary Languages: Formation and Development. Columbus, Ohio and New Haven: Yale Concilium on International and Area Studies, 1980.

Slaveikov, P.: Makedonskiăt Vǎpros. Makedonija (January 18) No. 3. Tsarigard. In: Săbrani săčinenija Vol. 7: Publisistika. Sofia: Bălgarski Pisatel, 1871. Photocopy of original pages in Bulgarian, in transcription and translated into English and Macedonian. <https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Macedonian_question>

Sugirtharajah, Rasiah S.: The Postcolonial Biblical Reader. Malden, MA and Oxford, UK: Blackwell, 2006.

Sugirtharajah, Rasiah S.: The Bible and Empire: Postcolonial Explorations. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

Vaporis, N.: Translating the Scriptures into Modern Greek. Brookline, MA: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 1994.

←31 | 32→

Vaporis, N.: The Translation of the Scriptures and the Ecumenical Patriarchate: The Translation Efforts of Hilarion of Tirnovo. In: Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies 1 (1975) 1, 141–73.

Videnov, M.: Ezikăt i obštestvenoto mnenie. Sofia: Marin Drinov, 1997.

Washburn, G.: Fifty years in Constantinople and Recollections of Robert College. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1909.

Weiner, L.: America's Share in the Regeneration of Bulgaria (1840–1859). In: Modern Language Notes, 13 (1898) 2, 33–41.

Yerlekhonov, L. S.: History of Education in Bulgaria. In: Soviet Education 1 (1959) 7, pp. 77–80.

1 The Treaty of Berlin superseded the March 1878 Treaty of San Stefano, which was never put into effect but delineated a Bulgaria that included all of modern Bulgaria and Macedonia as well as parts of modern Turkey, Greece, Serbia, and Albania.

2 Darlow & Moule (1903–1911: 162–166) use the phrasing “modified and conformed to the eastern dialect”, while the title page of the 1866 edition of the New Testament has the term “transposed”.

3 See Milroy and Milroy (1991) for the ideology of standard English.

4 For standardization of Slavic languages, see Schenker, et al. 1980. For the language formerly known as Serbo-Croatian, see Alexander 2013 and Naylor 1980.

5 Donors to the Jamaican patois translation project include the American Bible Society and the British and Foreign Bible Society, the two organizations active in the Balkans in the 19th century.

6 Washburn (1909: 124) refers to what he calls “intimate” relations between Robert College and British diplomats during the 1876 Conference of Constantinople.

7 It must be noted that Weiner does not provide any references as to which specific documents served as the basis for his assessment other than Riggs 1872. Thus, a substantial amount of digging into archival materials to corroborate his claims has been necessary. Fortunately, Google and the Hathi Trust have digitized a substantial number of relevant documents, mainly official Bible society reports that often contain excerpts of correspondence relevant to the work of missionaries in the Balkans. The location of Riggs’ personal journal, which would shed the most light on the details of the events of 1858–59, however, is unknown at present, although Clarke did have possession of it for his 1971 study.

8 Robert Pinkerton, Vienna, 28 August 1816. In: Thirteenth Report of the BFBS. London (1817), 89–93. Reproduced in Kuzmič, Vuk-Daničićevo Sveto Pismo, 257–58.

9 Clogg (2004) notes that Williamson had already obtained Patriarch Kyrillos’ approval in 1818 and negotiated terms with Hilarion of Mt. Sinai for the Greek vernacular translation.

10 The most significant political forces of this period were the Greek, Serbian, and Bulgarian states that each came into existence during the course of the nineteenth century. Each of these states had territorial claims to Macedonia, and one of the ways of supporting these claims was by suppressing attempts to create a Macedonian standard language.

11 Genov (2001: 32) cites Weiner as evidence that in 1844 Riggs recognized Macedonians as the most pure Bulgarians.

12 Some sources refer to this as the Thracian dialect, although it is clear that it is a northeastern dialect, i.e. of Veliko Tărnovo.

13 Veliko Tirnovo is often referred to in missionary reports as the capital since it served this function in several Ottoman administrative units prior to becoming the capital of the Principality of Bulgaria, albeit briefly, in 1878.

14 Rather than accept the observations of missionaries as definitive identifications of ethnic groups as Clarke does, the reader should keep in mind that the BFBS was essentially “primed” by Kopitar to find Serbs, Bulgarians and Albanians in the Balkans (Kuzmič 2004). This is why Pinkerton added Bible translations in Bulgarian and Albanian to the BFBS’s original request for approval of a Greek translation from Patriarch Gregory in 1819. It also accounts for his “discovery” on the way to Constantinople that in addition to Greeks “one-third of the inhabitants of Athens, a great part of the population of Attica and of the Morea are also Albanians, and speak the same language, less or more corrupted” (16 BFBS 1820: 15).

15 Riggs notes that the pronunciation is more often Eski Zaara.

16 Part of his defense is reprinted in translation in the 23rd BFBS Report (1827) 152–58.

17 Unless otherwise noted, translations are mine.

18 Presumably these are the verb endings illustrated by садимъ/садиме above.

19 As well as having a more agreeable climate.

20 The phrase “way of speaking” is used since neither Macedonian nor Bulgarian had been recognized as standard languages at this point in time.

21 This nuanced distinction between two variants of what was called Bulgarian in the first half of the 19th century has gone unnoted in subsequent publications on missionary activity, such as Tsanoff 1919. The descriptive title of this particular tome is revealing, Reports and letters of American missionaries referring to the distribution of nationalities in the former provinces of European Turkey, 1858–1918. Chosen & edited by Vladimir A. Tsanoff, with an introduction, fourteen portraits, and a map. The agenda is clearly stated at the outset of the introduction on p. vii:
    The evidence in support of the Bulgarian rights to Macedonia, Thrace, and Dobrudja, is abundant and irrefutable, for anyone who examines it without prejudice or partiality. Some of it has already been presented by other authorities, and we shall not refer to it here. In this book we present the testimony of the missionaries connected with the American Board, who have worked in former European Turkey uninterruptedly for more than sixty years, and who know best what nationalities populate those provinces.
    Tsanoff’s choice of 1858 for the beginning date of documentation is striking because this date is just two years short of the two decades Weiner attributes to the dominance of the western Macedonian. Clearly Tsanoff’s agenda is to harness linguistic facts to support Bulgaria’s territorial aspirations in the wake of the 1913 partition and it cannot be coincidence that he deliberately avoids using material published before 1858.

22 Rossos (2013: 86) cites Slaveikov’s editorial as evidence of the impact of the Makedonisti movement in the 1860s. Slaveikov makes the point that the Macedonian Question “was not new, that it had been around for well over a decade, and that the Bulgarians had not taken it seriously; as late as 1870, he himself had tended to underestimate the force of the ideas of the Makedonisti.”

23 In fact, the modern Bulgarian gerund is a western [= Macedonian] form that is included in the standard, but generally not used by the linguistically dominant northeastern elite.

24 Fielder (2012) discusses the issue of authenticity with respect to the standardization of Macedonian, Bulgarian and Greek.

25 53rd, 54th and 55th reports are in one digitized document.

26 56th, 57th and 58th reports are in one digitized document.

←32 | 33→

2.The Name Dispute between Greece and Macedonia: Macedonian Identity via the Prism of Greek Policy in Relation to the Macedonian Language in Ottoman Macedonia*

Dimitar Ljorovski Vamvakovski & Donche Tasev

Institute of National History, Skopje & University of Ljubljana

dljorovski@yahoo.com & donce_tasev@yahoo.com

The ‘separateness’ of the Macedonian language is a regular topic of academic and political discussion in two of the countries neighbouring the Republic of Macedonia (Bulgaria and Greece). The use of out of date and inappropriate terms in referencing the Macedonian language is a common practice in those countries and among their sympathizers elsewhere. The aim of such activity is to disqualify a language which has been codified as the language of the Macedonian nation.1 This uneasiness in accepting the Macedonian language as a fact is linked to the nationalistic and political ambitions of the abovementioned neighbouring nation-states. Among the most commonly used terms in reference to the Macedonian language are: “dialect,” “patois,” “idiom” or a “muddled mix of different languages.” These tendentious impositions are designed to negate Macedonian national identity, as the Macedonian language serves as an important marker of the nation’s contours. In this chapter we demonstrate that before Greek nationalistic discourse was consolidated there were inconsistencies that allowed for outright acknowledgment and recognition of the Macedonian language as a distinct and separate language.

Over the years Greek social scientists and politicians developed two theories in relation to the Macedonian language, which, to a large extent, coincide. Namely, in the first instance, the linguistic foundations of the ←33 | 34→Macedonian language, i.e. the very existence of it as a separate language, was disputed and negated on the basis that it had no prior existence as a written form and no established grammar. In the context of that argument the most commonly used terms in relation to the Macedonian language were “idiom” or “dialect.” Although there are semantic differences in the use of those terms in reference to the Macedonian language, the fundamental aim motivating their application is a desire to put into question the basic characteristics of the language. Thus for example, the Greek politician Nikolaos Martis contended that prior to the declaration of the “local idiom” as the Macedonian literary language, it was basically a concoction consisting “...mainly of western Bulgarian words with additions of Greek, Albanian, Turkish, Vlach (Aromun) words.”2 According to this construction, the “local idiom” served solely as a means for oral communication among the inhabitants of Macedonia and possessed a “very scanty vocabulary of no more than one thousand to one thousand five hundred words.”3 In relation to the latter, the Greek politician Stelios Papathemelis went a step further by asserting that the colloquial Macedonian language only possessed some “300 to 500 words which were used by shepherds for the purpose of communicating with each other, while the remainder is Greek” and that is basically why it is merely a variant of the Greek language.4 It follows from this that the Macedonian language was supposedly created through a process of “linguistic mutation” via the transformation of the spoken “Bulgarian-related dialect” into a separate “Slavo-Macedonian literary language” even though it was clear to the creators of the latter that the process of “purification from Bulgarian connections was not yet complete.”5 Additionally, because “the idiom lacked an alphabet, and consequently a written component,” during its construction as a Macedonian literary language, it was “enriched by Serbian, Russian and Polish ←34 | 35→contributions.”6 Taking into account these common formulations in explaining the origin of the Macedonian language, it is not at all surprising that the Greek linguist, Nicholas Andriotis, posited the absurd claim that the Macedonian language: “is linked so closely to both Bulgarian and Serbian that according to linguistic principles it cannot constitute a language in its own right.”7

The second theory comes from one of the present-day ideologues of Greek policy on the “Macedonian Question,” Evangelos Kofos. According to Kofos “the Greeks reject outright the existence of a ‘Macedonian nation,’ ‘Macedonian language’ and even a ‘Macedonian republic,’” even though, again according to Kofos, they supposedly “do not dispute the existence of a nation, a language or a republic after 1944.”8 It is very evident that WWII is taken as a starting point in the success of “the ideology of ‘Macedonianism,’” which, in those turbulent times, represented “an alternative solution to the antagonism of the Balkan states for influence within the wider region of Macedonia.”9 This ‘ideology,’ according to the Greek historian, Spiros Sfetas, also unavoidably includes what indeed was a major project, i.e. the “codification of a Slav-Macedonian language” as a separate south Slavic language; though “in contrast with the case of Misirkov,”10 in the 1940s there existed a political will in favour of a “Slav-Macedonian solution” as a “national choice” that would solve the Macedonian problem in the Balkans.11 In this context, if undermining the linguistic foundations of the Macedonian language is a secondary concern, then the main intent is to dispute “the legitimacy of the appropriation of the Macedonian name for defining a Slavic population in the Balkans;” so in this case, naming the language ←35 | 36→Macedonian is deemed illegitimate.12 According to Kofos, the name Macedonia “is a cherished historical feature, an inseparable element of Greek cultural heritage for well over two and a half millennia,” and if “the newly established ‘Macedonian’ nation” is permitted to use that name, then that nation can “rightfully stake a claim to everything … pertaining to the region of Macedonia and its inhabitants.”13

Moreover, intimately related to those contentions are the arguments utilised in order to deny the existence of an ethnic Macedonian minority in Greece and the refusal to accept the dialects spoken by that minority as dialects of the Macedonian literary language. Maintaining the terminological cohesion of the second theory, in relation to the name of the Macedonian language, the historian Vlasis Vlasidis asserts that “the distinct Slavic dialect spoken in certain villages in Greek Macedonia does not necessarily certify the existence of an ethnic minority.”14 On the other hand, explaining that there is a need to avoid “confusion over the various meanings of the same name,” Kofos adds that “the problem that arises is not the fact that people of Slavonic-speaking origin wish to belong to, and function as, an ethnic or national minority,” but that “it is the name they have chosen – Makedones in the Greek language – by which to define themselves in Greece.”15 These unfounded constructions of Greek nationalism are designed exclusively, as already asserted, for political and nationalistic purposes. Moreover, they are out of line with the realities of different phases in the historical development of the Macedonian language.

In the remainder of this text, we will first examine the development of the contemporary “Macedonian question” via the prism of the national ideologies in the Balkan nation-states neighbouring Macedonia, with a special focus on Greek national doctrines and the dispute imposed by Athens in relation to the Republic of Macedonia’s constitutional name. We shall also direct our attention towards highlighting the links between the name issue and the negation of other attributes ←36 | 37→which constitute the Macedonian nation, including the Macedonian language. From here, via Greek historical sources from the late Ottoman period, we intend to demonstrate the untenable nature of Greek theories negating the development of the Macedonian language.

The Contemporary “Macedonian question” via the Prism of the Greek-Macedonian Problem with the Name “Macedonia”

1. The Appearance of the Current “Macedonian Question” Towards the End of the 20th Century in the Light of Geopolitical Changes in Europe and the World

The tendencies which began with “Perestroika” involving a gradual reconfiguration of the countries formerly of the Warsaw Pact, unavoidably moved towards “the third wave of democratisation” and a re-actualisation of individual political and civil rights among the nations, which for more than half a century had lived in “collectivist” inclined societies.16 With the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 there also began the total demise of the federations in the eastern half of Europe. From that point there began a second, still ongoing, phase of the process commonly referred to as European integration, the foundations of which were laid in the aftermath of WWII with the raison d`etre of ameliorating animosities and encouraging cooperation between nations which had a history of conflict and border disputes.

At the same time similar developments on the Balkan Peninsula, were accompanied by the collapse of federal Yugoslavia and with that, a struggle by the republics which had constituted Yugoslavia, to differentiate themselves, shore up their sovereignty and secure international legal recognition of their new status as independent entities.17 Some of the states which emerged from the dissolution of Yugoslavia, at first, in a rudimentary, partial and disorganised form, and later with clearly manifested and systematic support, fostered nationalisms and national programs, which, one can say without exceptions, envisaged unavoidable confrontations with their neighbours. The latter were ←37 | 38→manifested via provocations at and beyond the established and recognised inter-republic borders with the aim of demonstrating a supposed correlation with ‘imagined’ ethno-cultural spaces on territory which any given nation would claim to possess a “historical right” to and with that, a justification for direct intervention in the internal affairs of the by then newly created states. Serbian aggression towards the Republic of Croatia and the civil war in Bosnia and Herzegovina resulted in over 200,000 casualties and over a million refugees, which of course created a long-term level of distrust and increased the intolerance between those nations.18

At the same time, with the arrival of the Macedonian state as an independent entity on the international stage at the beginning of the 1990s, at a point when geopolitical relations in the world in general and Europe in particular, were in the process of re-composition, the forgotten “Macedonian question” was once again placed on the European political agenda. The countries neighbouring the Republic of Macedonia when it was still part of the Yugoslav federation, accused the latter of utilising its special geopolitical position in a bloc divided Europe to implement a voluntaristic and unilateral resolution of the “Macedonian question.”19 Namely, they were referring to the declaration of federal Macedonia as one of the Yugoslav republics (in 1944), the subsequent codification of the Macedonian literary language and the establishment of semi-independent Macedonian institutions; even though all of that represented an expression of the will of the Macedonians. Thus from the very beginning all of that was problematised by some of the neighbouring countries, for them, the “Macedonian question” was definitely an element indivisible from their national programs.

2. The Representation of Macedonia and the “Macedonian Question” in Balkan Nation-states

From the second half of the 19th century, Greek nationalism began to perceive the name “Macedonia” as an integral part of Greek culture and history and in accordance with that, the name came to symbolise a regional variation of Greek ethno-culture. Moreover, after the Balkan Wars of 1912/13, in the part of ←38 | 39→Macedonia Greece annexed, the label “Macedonians” began to be used in reference to the population which predominantly though not exclusively, spoke Greek. This type of labelling collided against the way the label was used by the population of Macedonia which had been developing it as a means to denote a separate Macedonian identity.

The ethnic Greek inhabitants in present day northern Greece, alongside their Greek national identity, have allegedly developed a regional and cultural “Greek-Macedonian” identity.20 Actually a large part of the population in question was not indigenous to Macedonia and was settled in Macedonia as a result of the Lausanne Convention which was signed by Greece and Turkey in 1923. It involved an exchange of “Muslim” and “Christian” populations between the two countries.21

In Bulgaria as a result of an historical and ethno-cultural self-understanding which regards Macedonia and the “Macedonian question” as aspects of Bulgarian history and the Bulgarian nation, Bulgarian society is still unable to come to terms with the reality of the separateness of the Macedonian nation and language, nor is it able to accept the existence of a Macedonian minority in Bulgaria.22 For Bulgarian nationalism, Macedonia had earlier represented one of “the three historical Bulgarian territories” along with Moesia and Thrace, something that almost became a reality as a result of the short lived Russian sponsored “San Stefano Bulgaria” (1878), which encompassed the bulk of the remainder of the Ottoman Empire in Europe, including Macedonia.23 Bulgarian nationalism, in an effort to realise the San Stefano dream, implemented various measures, including endeavours to assimilate the population of Macedonia; to seize control of the Macedonian Revolutionary ←39 | 40→Organisation (MRO); and the waging of expansionist wars – during WWI & WWII, as well as the during the Balkan Wars of 1912–13.

For a short period of time, from 1944–1948, under the influence of Soviet internationalist dogma, the Bulgarian state accepted the existence of a separate Macedonian nation, language, history and culture. However, disputes within the Communist bloc resulted in a return of traditional Bulgarian nationalism in relation to the “Macedonian question.” All at once the state’s leadership, without hesitation took the stance that “the process by which Macedonian national consciousness is developing” in what at that time was the Socialist Republic of Macedonia, is being conducted on an exclusively “anti-Bulgarian basis, through the falsification of generally known historical facts.”24 Even so, upon the collapse of Yugoslavia, Bulgaria was first to recognise the independence of Macedonia, although the same generic beliefs from the communist years continued to be maintained. Occasionally the stance has been “even if a process of the formation of a new nation has taken place, it was limited to the territory of the ... Republic of Macedonia.”25 That sort of explanation, above all else, serves well in the argumentation for not recognising the existence of the Macedonian minority in Bulgaria.

The perception of the “Macedonian question” in Serbia has gone through a major transformation, from a “national territorial issue” in the more distant past, to a “church issue” in the present. In tracing the course of this transformation, a number of epochs can be distinguished, all of which aids in explaining the ambivalent relations between the Republic of Macedonia and the Republic of Serbia which existed and still exist today. In other words Macedonian-Serbian relations are characterised by an exceptional complexity, beginning: with an envisioned annexation of Macedonian territory defined as “Old Serbia” in the well-known “Начертанијe” (a draft plan for Serbia’s ←40 | 41→expansion) of Ilija Garashanin in 1844;26 which was later followed by the promotion of a theory which viewed Macedonians as an “amorphous mass” with totally unspecified ethno-cultural and linguistic origins, by the Serbian ethnographer Jovan Cvijić; then acceptance of the Macedonians as a separate national group during the Communist Yugoslav era and finally with the demise of Yugoslavia, the development of an institutional church dispute in which the Serbian side is putting into question the canonical foundations of the Macedonian Orthodox Church.27

The formation of the League of Prizren in 1878 represents the basis of Albanian nationalism. Its program stated that its final aim is to unite all the imagined “Albanian territories” in the Balkans. Even though the Albanian state, upon its formation in 1912/13 viewed Macedonian revolutionaries as allies, at present, the vision of Prizren is a political program which is leading towards a confrontation with the Republic of Macedonia. Moreover, the hesitant attitude of Macedonian Albanians in relation to the independence of the Republic of Macedonia in the 1990s and especially the civil conflict in Macedonia in 2001, which led to constitutional changes that strengthened the collective rights of the by then well-established Albanian community, added a further burden to the totality of Macedonian-Albanian relations.28

Macedonian nationalism, suppressed immediately after WWII and then allowed expression within Communist Party determined parameters in the Yugoslav federation, never lost its currency and ultimately even received some encouragement from some of Macedonia’s semi-independent institutions. The main aims of the Macedonian “national program” since independence in 1991 have involved concern about the situation of Macedonian minorities in neighbouring countries; the fostering of closer ties with Diaspora Macedonians; ←41 | 42→attempts to internationalise the legal problems that ethnic Macedonian refugees from the Greek Civil War (1946–1949) have in regard to regaining their property and citizenship rights and lastly, the affirmation of the autocephaly of the Macedonian Orthodox Church.29 The name dispute and the problem of international acceptance that is part of the name dispute, shall be discussed in the next section.

3. The Republic of Macedonia and the Name Dispute

On the 8th of September 1991 a large majority of the citizens of the Republic of Macedonia, in a referendum, voted in favour of independence from Yugoslavia. The European Community, as it was known then, was actively involved in mitigating the process of the disintegration of Yugoslavia – via the Conference on Yugoslavia and the Badinter Arbitration Commission, which was charged with giving legal advice on developments in Yugoslavia and on the conditions for recognising the former Yugoslav republics as independent states.30 As a result of pressure applied by Greece,31 among other conditions, a condition was added which stipulated that for a state to be recognised it must “adopt constitutional and political guarantees ensuring that it has no territorial claims towards a neighboring Community State and that it will conduct no hostile propaganda activities versus a neighboring Community State, including the use of a denomination which implies territorial claims.”32 This condition was arguably designed especially for Macedonia.

Despite the added condition, the Arbitration Commission found that the government in Skopje had fulfilled all the conditions for recognition and declared that “the use of the name ‘Macedonia’ cannot therefore imply any ←42 | 43→territorial claim against another State.”33 However the recognition of the Republic of Macedonia was then further conditioned by a number of controversial decrees, such as the Lisbon Declaration issued on the 27th of June 1992, which represents “the zenith of Greek Foreign Policy’s effectiveness during the dispute.”34 In that declaration, alongside a call to resolve the name dispute imposed by Greece on Macedonia, in a manner that is acceptable to the concerned parties, it was also stated that: “The European Council ... expresses its readiness to recognize that republic within its existing borders ... under a name which does not include the term Macedonia.”35

On the other hand, the Arbitration Commission issued negative findings against some of the other former Yugoslav republics on account of the inappropriate nature of their internal legal structures in the realm of minority rights, which did not serve the real needs of their minorities. Despite this, those states were given “premature recognition” by certain European states, apparently for geopolitical reasons/ interests.36 The exact opposite of the “delayed recognition” the Republic of Macedonia experienced as a consequence of the imposition of the will of a single state, a member of the EC, in opposition to the remaining EC members.37

It is evident that the independence of Macedonia “provoked a dangerous political and diplomatic crisis” which in the context of that time “posed a far greater threat to Balkan and European peace and stability than the war to the north in Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia and Hercegovina.”38 Such a conclusion is derived from the possibility of an eventual military escalation in the relations ←43 | 44→between Macedonia and Greece, which one can say would definitely have led to the involvement of all of Macedonia’s neighbours in a major war.

Finally, in response to the request of the political leadership in Skopje for membership of the UN on the 30th of July 1992, Greece submitted a Memorandum on the 25 January 1993 in which it elaborated on its position in relation to Macedonia’s membership. The memorandum laid out the premises of Greece’s political stance towards Macedonia. It alleges that the acceptance of Macedonia with its constitutional name in the UN, would create long term regional destabilisation. In support of that claim, the Memorandum cites the preamble to Macedonia’s constitution (which references the historic decisions of ASNOM) as supposedly containing “direct references to the annexation of the Macedonian provinces of Greece and Bulgaria, and to the eventual establishment of a greater Macedonian state” and other constitutional provisions, which in Greece’s perception, did not exclude the possibility of intervention by Macedonia in “the internal affairs of neighbouring states on the pretext of issues concerning ‘the status and the rights’ of an alleged [Macedonian] minority.”39 Recalling the Greek Civil War, the document contains the contention that “Tito’s Yugoslavia, with the ‘People’s Republic of Macedonia’ in the vanguard, tried to accomplish these aims by supporting a communist uprising in Greece … as a means of annexing Greek Macedonia.”40 Even after the end of the Civil War, it is stated in the Memorandum that “efforts continued in order to undermine Greek sovereignty over Greek Macedonia by attempts to monopolize the Macedonian name, thus staking a lasting claim to Greek territories and, indeed, to Greek Macedonian heritage.”41 Finally the “monopolisation” of the use of the name “Macedonia” argument is further explained with “the fact” that the “new” state has “explicitly adopted the name of a wider geographical region extending over four neighbouring countries” which supposedly means that it “pretends to be the sole title deed holder of a much wider region.”42

←44 | 45→

The Republic of Macedonia responded to the suppositions of the Greek Memorandum by submitting its own Memorandum on 3 February 1993. That memorandum stated that the Republic of Macedonia is the only legal state entity utilising the name Macedonia as its official appellation in the region of Macedonia, while the Greek province of Macedonia is part of the unitary Greek state and accordingly, Macedonia respects that reality and has no pretensions to monopolise use of the name “Macedonia.”43 On the question of the Macedonian minority in Greece, which the Greek authorities refuse to recognise, it explained that the sole reason for mentioning it is to point out that the human and minority rights belonging to that minority should be respected and guaranteed as is required by international law.44

On 7 April 1993 the UN Security Council issued Resolution 817, which confirmed that the Republic of Macedonia had fulfilled the conditions for membership of the UN. However the Security Council recommended to the UN General Assembly that until “the difference that has arisen over the name of the State” has been overcome, within the UN, the state should be “provisionally” referred to as “the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.” 45 Since then the use of the “temporary” reference has been established as a sine qua non condition, by Greece on the Republic of Macedonia, in the latter’s efforts to obtain membership of various international organisations, including the EU and NATO.

As Kofos triumphantly declared, the entry of Macedonia to the UN under the “temporary” reference obviously represents “another concession” by the international community to “the Greek argument that the ‘constitutional’ state denomination of FYROM could negatively affect the promotion of peaceful and good neighborly relations among the peoples and the states in the region.”46 The Interim Accord signed by Macedonia and Greece on 13 September 1995 ←45 | 46→established a legal framework for a certain amount of normalisation in the relations between the two states, however, the crux of the dispute, the constitutional name of the Republic of Macedonia, has yet to be overcome, despite two decades of negotiations for the purpose of finding a mutually agreeable solution. This may be attributed to the voluntaristic refusal of the Greek side to accept the reality of the existence of an independent Macedonian state, the Macedonian nation and language as well as the Macedonian minority in Greece.

The bases of Greece’s political position in the context of disputing the constitutional name of the Republic of Macedonia, as with a whole -corpus of issues related to the “Macedonian question” in the present, can be better understood after an examination of the genealogy of Greek nationalism. As with the various and essential complementary “theories” designed to negate the linguistic foundations of the Macedonian language, Greek nationalism in its various developmental stages experienced transform-ations. More precisely the intrinsic contours of Greek nationalism, from time to time were re-modelled and modified in accord with the needs of the political elite at any given moment, though also with the aim of realising ‘imagined’ national priorities. Therefore, prior to presenting an historical overview of the perspectives and definitions of the Macedonian-speakers in Ottoman Macedonia, by the elite of the then young Greek state, we shall examine the perception and representation of Macedonia, its inhabitants and the language of the largest group, in relation to the adjustments made by Greek nationalism, in order to gain a “competitive edge” over rival claimants to the ethno-historical space in Macedonia.

4. The Fundamentals of Greek Nationalism in relation to Ottoman Macedonia and Macedonian Ethnicity

From the end of the 19th century to the present it is obvious that the confrontation between a number of Balkan national conceptions of the identity of the most numerous indigenous population inhabiting Macedonia, at the time of the formation of modern Balkan nation-states in the 19th century, is perceived in a wide context as the “Macedonian question.” The first account came from the Greeks, then the Serbs and the Bulgarians followed with their historiographies. The conceptions, which were closely tied to the creation of national myths, were based on “original arguments” which confirmed the existence of each nation’s ←46 | 47→own ethnicity in Macedonia, though the arguments often varied or changed in accord with the needs of a particular historical situation and in relation to the “evidence and facts” presented by a Balkan competitor. In this section we shall discuss the stances of Greek national ideology, above all in connection with language, i.e. in the context of the attempt by Greek nationalism to negate the distinctness of Macedonian ethnicity as well as its efforts to create a Greek national identity among Macedonia’s Christian inhabitants.

For the bulk of the members of the Greek nation today, to be a Greek implies speaking the Greek language, affiliation with the Orthodox Church and residing on territories which were supposedly inhabited by Greek ancestors. That attitude, according to the British historian Peter Mackridge, is based on the belief “that their Church membership connects them particularly to the Byzantine Empire, while their language connects them to Classical Hellas as well as Byzantium.”47 Actually a nation represents a living organism subject to the processes and events of historical change. As such, transformations of national identity throughout history have not been avoided even by the Greek nation. In relation to that, both in the past and the present of the social sciences, a large number of questions in relation to Greek national identity and the development of the Greek nation, remain unanswered, unclarified or only very partially answered. In the context of this paper, such questions include: Who were the Greeks? Were they Hellenes, Romans or Greeks? Which territories can be regarded as Greek? Is religion the main determinant of membership in the Greek nation? Should people whose mother tongue is Greek be the only people included in the Greek nation, or, should all those non-Greek-speaking Orthodox Christians inhabiting the Ottoman Empire, be included in the Greek nation? According to the Greek historians Koliopoulos and Veremis, in the more distant past, these and similar questions were rarely posed and even when they were, they remained unanswered.48 Be that as it may, today there is a large amount of available historical material which aids in answering some of those questions partially or even completely.

←47 | 48→

The markers, on the basis of which it would be determined whether a particular individual would be deemed a member of the Greek nation, were largely established during the period of the struggle for liberation from the Ottoman Empire (1821–1830). In this early phase, on the whole, Greek ethnic identity was defined by two main criteria, on the basis of which, Greeks could be distinguished from non-Greeks. The first criterion was membership of the Orthodox Church and the second was the ability to speak Greek.49 Other criteria which determined whether or not one is an ethnic Greek, mostly depended on the nature of the construction of Greek national mythology and included definitions of what constituted “Greek national territories”, “ancestry” or “origins” and, a factor of special importance in the case of national aspirations in regard to the inhabitants of Macedonia, apart from the religious criterion, was “cultural and national consciousness.”50

As already indicated, a factor utilised in the construction of the Greek nation-state was the Greek language. In the earliest period there were two opposing theories, the so-called “modern” and the “traditional”, in prescribing the “true” criteria for defining the Greek nation. The first theory favoured language, while the second insisted on religion. The latter emerged as the ‘winner’ in this ‘competition.’ Crucial in this was consideration of the geographic reach of the Orthodox religion, which unlike the language, enabled the Greek state to have pretensions towards Macedonia and Thrace. According to Koliopoulos and Veremis this signalled the beginning of irredentism, which was “one of the most important and painful adventures in the history of modern Greece.”51 Doubtless “there is no reason to suppose that language was more than one among several criteria by which people indicated belonging to a human collectivity.”52 So while the Greek language was not the primary foundation of Greek national identity, it certainly was the main medium for articulating national sentiment.

Once a nation, for the most part bases itself on language and religion, with the later addition of cultural heritage, “nationalists tend to think of other people, ←48 | 49→outside the boundaries of the nation-state, who either speak the same language or practise the same religion as those within it, as belonging equally to the same nation.”53 Eventually the Greek language was to become a powerful tool in the service of Greek nationalism’s attempts to Hellenise and homogenise the new state’s territory and after that, in Ottoman territories which were beginning a process of separation from the Ottoman Empire.

According to Mackridge, Greek nationalism passed through two overlapping phases. The first liberation phase dates from prior to the formation of the Greek nation-state, while the second state phase began after the formation of the state. The liberation phase nationalism, later and after the development of state nationalism, continued in the form of irredentism, both with and without the support of state institutions, as was the case with efforts to “liberate” Macedonia and Crete in the 19th century.54

In developing the argumentation for its pretensions towards Macedonia and its population, Greek nationalism utilised myths to construct a new picture of Macedonia during the second half of the 19th century. By using selective arguments and evidence, this new picture represented Ottoman Macedonia as an inseparable part of the Greek nation.55

The construction of such a justification for territorial pretensions towards Macedonia was the easier part of the task. The Greeks were the first in the Balkans to define Ottoman Macedonia as part of their nation. They utilised the so called “historical right” argument by presenting Macedonia as an ancient part of Greek national territory. During the 19th century and at the beginning of the 20th, however, Macedonia was “historically a Greek land” only for some Greeks who possessed a certain amount of historical education; for the majority of the Greek population, Macedonia was mostly an unknown land.56 In any case the more difficult part of the task for Greek nationalism was to demonstrate that the dominant ethnic group in Ottoman Macedonia was Greek.

The reality on the ground in Macedonia was that the “Slavic” (which is how it was often described or labelled in the 19th century) Christian population ←49 | 50→was the most numerous population group in Macedonia. During the second half of the 19th century that group gradually began to develop an identity of its own – different from the Greek, Bulgarian and Serbian identities.57 Until 1870 it was the common practice of Greek nationalism to refer to that Macedonian Christian population as either “Bulgarians” or “Slavs”. The use of these terms did not have an ethnic connotation, rather, the Christians in Macedonia “were understood”, on the basis of religion, to be “Greeks.” However, matters gradually began to move in a direction that was negative for Greek nationalism.

At first, Greek foreign policy did not view the appearance of a group of Macedonian ‘renaissance’ intellectuals as particularly dangerous. The same attitude was also initially taken towards the rise of an ever stronger highlighting of ‘Slavic’ separateness by the populous of Macedonia within their church-school community organisations.58 Though with the development of Bulgarian nationalism in the form of a separate Bulgarian Exarchate Church, which was established in 1870; the subsequent creation of a Bulgarian Principality (1878) and the exposition of Bulgarian aspirations towards Macedonia and its inhabitants, the various national ideologies came into direct confrontation. All of that resulted in a drastic change in Greek policy on the “Macedonian question.”

Religion (to a certain extent) and language as the main arguments in favour of Greek nationalism could no longer be considered decisive. Though Orthodoxy, in the shape of the Constantinople Patriarchate, continued to be used in “proving” the Greek character of Macedonia and in the struggle against the Bulgarian Exarchate. None-the-less, origin and consciousness became the crucial factors in “proving” the Greek ancestry of Macedonia’s inhabitants. Those factors were utilised in conjunction with Orthodoxy in an effort to minimise the importance of language. The official stance of Athens was to posit that the part of the population which remained under the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate, is authentically “Greek,” if not by language, then by origin and national ←50 | 51→consciousness.59 In support of that, the nationalist elite and national institutions in Athens developed a historical construct which aimed to “prove” that the populous of Macedonia is of Greek “origin.” This narrative was the most commonly used element in the propagation of Greek propaganda among the inhabitants of Macedonia and it was particularly used during the so called Greek “Macedonian struggle” 1904–1908.60 The crux of it involved an assertion that the Macedonians had been Greek since Antiquity, though with the arrival of the Slavs in the Balkans, the Macedonians were Slavicised and that it was “finally time” for them to be again ‘Hellenised.’61 In line with that there came a semantic labelling change, Greek nationalism began to refer to Macedonians as “Slavicised Greeks” or as “Slavophone Greeks.”62

This ideologically constructed basis would play a substantial role in “proving” the Greek character of Macedonia. It is a national myth which was destined to be of great assistance in conjunction with other propaganda activities, especially paramilitary operations during the above-mentioned Greek “Macedonian struggle.” It was to serve one of the main ambitions of Greek foreign policy – the “Great Idea”, i.e. the unification of the bulk of Macedonia and its Christian inhabitants with the Greek nation-state.

In order to fulfil the desire to create a nationally homogenous territorial unit, the modern Greek state was compelled to utilise various means, including substantial assimilation programs, expulsions and killings.63 According to Eric ←51 | 52→Hobsbawm, the homogenous national territory which the Greek nation-state was striving for should “be seen as a program that could be realised only by barbarians, or at least by barbarian means.”64 The politics of assimilation implemented upon the population of Macedonia, which actually began prior to the annexation of the largest part of Macedonia by the Kingdom of Greece, in the period following the Balkan Wars (1912–1913), developed means that knew no boundaries. Again the purpose was to make the population of the newly gained Macedonian territory congruent with that of the Greek nation-state.65 In other words, the annexation of that part of Macedonia by the Kingdom of Greece signalled the beginning of another process of transforming the local cultures and ethnic identities into a new national entity.66

5. Language as a Weakness in the Greek National Doctrine on the Greekness of Ottoman Macedonia

Towards the end of the 19th and at the beginning of the 20th century large parts or even the whole of Ottoman Macedonia was incorporated in the expansionist irredentist projects of the neighbouring Balkan states. The consequence was a mutual antagonism which developed into a fierce confrontation between the respective propagandas in the Balkan part of the Ottoman Empire. Integral to this were continuous endeavours to represent the “true” nature of the “Macedonian question” to the wider European public. For that purpose various historical, ethnographic, linguistic, cultural, religious and other criteria were invented in order to “prove” the Greek, Bulgarian or Serbian nature of Ottoman Macedonia.67 The efforts of the national propagandas to outwit each other, led to the creation of certain comparative strengths or advantages and or weaknesses or disadvantages in various fields, which included ←52 | 53→language, consciousness, education, financial influence and history. 68 The biggest problem for all of the aspirants was the non-existence or a non-majority existence of their respective ethnic groups on the territories which had been marked for future incorporation to their particular state.

Moreover, the Ottoman millet system of classifying people on the basis of religious affiliation did not permit for a rapid development of national consciousness even in the late period of Ottoman rule. This fact had been observed not only by the Greek premier Harilaos Trikoupis,69 but also by most of his contemporaries.70 It has also been re-affirmed more recently by the British historian Mark Mazower, who wrote that among the Christians in the Ottoman Balkans there was a “feeling of belonging to a community defined by religion,” while other criteria were neglected in favour of “their shared belief in Orthodoxy.”71 In these conditions, except for some manifestations of protonationalism by the local population, one can conclude that the counting and recounting of their “co-nationals” in Ottoman Macedonia, by the Balkan pretenders, is a process that was imported from outside and which served, above all else, the realisation of their nationalistic expansionist state projects.

←53 | 54→

It appears that a large part and in all probability the majority of the inhabitants of Ottoman Macedonia during the second half of the 19th century did not possess a clearly defined national consciousness. This seemed to place them in a condition that would be conducive for the efforts of the nationalist propagandas of the young Balkan states, which themselves had only been created in the 19th century. In imposing their respective national identities in Ottoman Macedonia, these recently created states mobilised three social institutions in the service of their nationalisms, their churches, education systems and their languages. Thus the education system in Macedonia was actually developed into an ideological mechanism of these states and every effort was made to use the system as a means for spreading the use of their languages and for the spread of their respective brands of national consciousness.72

The large number of Macedonian-speakers was the main barrier to the proposition that the nature of Ottoman Macedonia was predominantly Greek, though Greek policy continued in attempting to Hellenise them as well as Christian Orthodox speakers of Vlach and Albanian. The Greek propaganda institutions, despite minimising the importance of language in their defining and shaping of the largest portion of the Christian population in Macedonia, still undertook numerous measures to spread the teaching and adoption of the Greek language by that population. These measures were most commonly implemented via churches, educational institutions and in the process of trade. Priority was given to teaching Macedonian children to speak a form of Greek and especially a form that will “enter the shacks [homes] of the peasants”73 as Ion Dragoumis put it, one of the main ideologues of Greek policy in Ottoman Macedonia. However, while the hundreds of Greek schools in the villages and towns of Macedonia succeeded in draining the coffers of the Kingdom of Greece, those schools did not succeed in their intended goal. This was not only because the majority of the students were unfamiliar with the language but also because they “struggled with Greek primers in the purified national vernacular”74 (Katharevousa). The problem was obvious, the Greek state was trying to impose a language that was unknown to the vast majority of the Christian inhabitants of ←54 | 55→Macedonia and moreover, it was attempting to impose that language in a form that was more difficult than was necessary, Katharevousa, which even the average Greek found difficult to master.75 As was eventually noted by Ion Dragoumis, Hellenising the Macedonian-speaking population only via the use of schools, is not possible. In a very lengthy report written by Dragoumis, dated 4 December 1903 and sent to the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs, he downgraded the importance of language in the creation of “Greeks” in the Balkan part of the Ottoman Empire and suggested that a raft of economic, colonisation, church, financial and other measures would lead to reaching the main goal – the Hellenisation of certain parts of Ottoman Macedonia.76

Clearly there was confusion in Greek policy at that time about the role of language in the early phase of the nation forming processes in Ottoman Macedonia, especially in regard to the largest Christian linguistic group in Macedonia. In that confusion various names were used in reference to the Macedonian language, though some even denied that it existed. On account of that we will present some information taken from early 20th century Greek sources, which explicitly mentions the existence of the Macedonian language.

In the Spring of 1904, Georgios Tsorbazoglou, a civil servant and translator employed at the Greek embassy in Istanbul was sent to Macedonia on a fact-finding mission. During his tour of the town of Voden and villages in Voden’s vicinity, he sent a report to the Greek government dated 27 May 1904, in which he wrote: “the town leaders [of Voden] and the youth, publicly speak Greek more than Macedonian.” In sketching the ethnic makeup of the Serres region, he noted that there are “two groups” among which one might and should try to spread Greek propaganda, Tsorbazoglou described those as “Orthodox [i.e. Patriarchist] and schismatic [i.e. Exarchists] Macedonian-speakers and the Greek-speaking groups.”77

←55 | 56→

To give another example, the leader of a paramilitary group which had invaded Ottoman Macedonia, Pavlos Melas, regularly sent letters to his wife, Natalia Mela, during his stay in the Kostur region in the spring of 1904. In a letter dated 16 March 1904, while he and his paramilitary group were in the Kostur region village of Gabresh, Melas wrote: “as we were heading up towards the stable, one would continually hear ‘good evening’ in Macedonian from the women (they do not know a single word of Greek) and ‘welcome brothers’ from the men, in Greek.”78 On the same day in the Kostur village of Rulja, Greek paramilitaries were visiting a house at the invitation of Kote Hristov (a native of Rulja) and conversing with a dozen village leaders. According to Melas the discussion was conducted in the following way: “to them, Kote spoke fluently and convincingly in Macedonian, and Pirzas was translating for us.”79 The need to be able to communicate with the local population drove Melas to learn some Macedonian words as he explained in a letter to his wife on March 21 while he was in the village of Oshtima: “I have learned some Macedonian words which I use when speaking to the women and mothers ...” 80

One of the chief leaders of the Greek paramilitary groups in south-western Ottoman Macedonia, Georgios Tsontos-Vardas, wrote in his diary on 22 October 1906 that he would make a request to the Greek state that it “send him some kind of book in Macedonian, if one exists, for the purpose of learning it”81 i.e. the Macedonian language. Three days later, on October 25, Vardas wrote: “I strive to learn the Macedonian [language], but I meet many difficulties, because unfortunately I do not perceive it as conforming to any rule and any declination”82 – obviously the lack of a book on Macedonian grammar, was a problem for him. All the same Tsontos-Vardas did not renounce trying to learn the language, quite the opposite; in his interactions with the local population he continued trying to perfect it. For example on 28 October he mentions that during his stay in the Bitola region village of Dragosh: “tonight everyone who was with ←56 | 57→me went to take shelter in a house, I remained with the women, chatting with them and practicing hard on the language.”83

During his time in Macedonia Vardas continually received newspapers from Greece. On 14 August 1907 he wrote a diary entry which noted that an edition of the newspaper Piron dated 9 July 1907 actually criticised him “for still not having learned the local language, Macedonian” (δεν κατωρθωσε δ’ ακομη να μαθη την γλωσσαν του τοπου, την Μακεδονικην). In responding Vardas wrote that is because “no book or teacher of this exists” and he publicly stated that in the future all officers and andartes (ordinary members of the guerrilla or paramilitary groups) sent to Macedonia will have to know the Macedonian language.84 Vardas’ annotations on the Macedonian language are substantial and valuable; they are located in folder no.18 of his archive. In his efforts to learn the Macedonian language he created a dictionary for his own use; it contains a large number of words; it has dialogues written in Greek and then translated to colloquial Macedonian with a Greek transcription and it has the numbers up to a thousand, months, years and the days of the week. It also has a separate section with the heading: “How to say things” (Κακο σι βελει) which contains common phrases.85

Moving from real paramilitaries to more or less similar fictional types, in 1907, a novel written by Ion Dragoumis, whom we have already mentioned, was published with the title: “Martyrs and Heroes in Blood” (Μαρτυρων και ηρωων αιμα). In that book the Macedonian language was referred to, simply as that, in a discussion between the main character, Aleksis and a Bulgarian officer. The former in arguing against the officer’s Bulgarian perspective on the town of Bitola and its surrounding regions, asserted that in that area “there are a number of villages in which the language spoken is Macedonian, which you call Bulgarian.”86

Another very pertinent example is derived from the Greek newspaper, “Skrip” (Σκριπ). In an edition dated 8 July 1905, the “alarming” news was reported that a “new Macedonian grammar ... will be used in the Bulgarian [i.e. ←57 | 58→Exarchist] schools in Macedonia.”87 Further on the report continues: “...a few months ago in Bitola a commission formed by the Macedonian organisation has the task of creating a Macedonian grammar. The commission is composed of seven linguists. The dialect which is spoken in the Vilayet of Bitola will be used as the basis for this grammar. The commission has already declared this dialect as the Macedonian language. The teachers in the Slavic schools in Macedonia have recieved a direction to teach that language instead of Serbian or Bulgarian and to use that language to lay the foundations for the creation of an independent Macedonia. School and other books will shortly be printed in this language and after that the organisation intends to consider banning the use of the Serbian and Bulgarian languages.”88

We shall conclude this part of our discussion by referring to some documentation emanating from the archives of Greek educational institutions. In Ottoman Macedonia, as in other parts of the Ottoman Empire which contained diocese of the Constantinople (Istanbul) Orthodox Patriarchate, there was a well developed network of Greek schools. As we have previously mentioned, one of the purposes of these schools, during the late Ottoman period, was to impose Greek culture and in particular, the Greek language, on the youth of the non-Greek speaking population. In much of the documentation from Greek educational institutions in Ottoman Macedonia, one can find references to the existence of the colloquial Macedonian language. For example, the supervisor of Greek schools, Angelos Papazahariou, during the period from 10 November – 2 December 1905, toured a number of villages in the vicinity of Salonika. On 17 January 1906, Papazahariou prepared a report detailing the information he had gathered from his tour and he accompanied that with an analysis. He noted that the inhabitants of the villages of Kavalartsi, Sirichevo and Suho, apart from Greek, also speak the Turkish, Vlach, Romani and “Slav-Macedonian” languages.89 He also declared that the schools in Suho “are in a sorry state” and on account of that, “around 150 of the children at pre-school age, were not receiving any kind of education.” Papazahariou proposed that “to ensure that the national cause obtains results, permanently uprooting the impoverished Slav-←58 | 59→Macedonian language and that Suho definitely becomes Hellensied,” a nursery should be established and a new school-house should be built.90 In another document, a register of students with stipends for the 1910–11 school year, at the central Greek dormitory for males in Bitola, contains information about 155 students aged around 18. Apart from “Vlach,” “Greek-Vlach” and “Albanian,” in the columns listing the languages spoken by the stipendists, one also finds the “Macedonian” language.91

6. Conclusion

The dispute over the constitutional name of the Republic of Macedonia, imposed on the latter by Athens, since the early 1990s, represents only an aspect of the current “Macedonian question.” This dispute burdens the totality of the bilateral relations of Macedonia and Greece and at one point, it was an all encompassing hindrance in the foreign policy objectives of Macedonian governments. Although one might gain the impression that the dispute is soley about the name of the Macedonian state, it is actually a multi-dimensional problem. Namely, Greek nationalism in conjunction with the Greek state, is attempting, via the dispute, to negate aspects of the Macedonian nation and language, which are indispensible to the existence of any nation. And despite the fact that the present day Macedonian language is internationally accepted and that its development in the past was systematised and codified in an appropriate manner, Greek nationalism is attempting to negate the Macedonian language as an “impoverished linguistic mix,” composed of borrowings from the languages of the neighbouring nations and as such, it does not deserve to be regarded as a langauge in its own right.

The aim of this paper has been to display the inconsistent nature of Greek argumentation in relation to the history of the development of the Macedonian language. Via our citation of some material from a field that has a wealth of primary Greek sources, relating to the late Ottoman period, we have shown that even some Greek “national heroes” not only recognised the separateness of colloquial Macedonian, but they also referred to it as Macedonian. Their testimonies are perhaps most important, as first hand witnesses and as most ←59 | 60→concerned actors in the struggle to assimilate the Macedonian population, a tendency that still dictates Greek official policies towards Macedonians, both internally, as well as internationally. In other words Greek nationalism has not always treated the Macedonian language in the essentialist manner claimed by the most influential Greek historian on the matter, Evangelos Kofos. Indeed further research might reveal a self serving instrumentalism at the centre of Greek nationalism’s attitude towards the Macedonian language over the course of the last 120 years.

* This chapter was translated from the Macedonian by George Vlahov. Although it was completed prior to the ratification of the Prespa Agreement in 2019 the basic points remain valid.

1 Codification is a process by which a language is given a stable standardised form. At the first sitting of the Anti-fascist Assembly for the National Liberation of Macedonia (ASNOM) on 2 August 1944 a decision was taken to make Macedonian the language of the new Macedonian republic. A second decision by the Presidium of ASNOM on 5 May 1945 settled on an alphabet and on 7 June 1945 an orthography was introduced. See more in: Правопис на македонскиот јазик, Институт за македонски јазик “Крсте Мисирков”, Скопје, 2016.

2 Nikolaos Martis: The Falsification of Macedonian History. Alexander Onassis Foundation, Athens, 1984, 86.

3 The Macedonian Affair: A Historical Review of the Attempts to Create a Counterfeit Nation. Institute of International Political and Strategic Studies, Athens, 1991, 31.

4 Αρης Σκιαδοπουλος, „Στελιος Παπαθεμελης: Πρεπει να δρασουμε οπως δρουν τα Σκοπια”, Ταχυδρομος, 1998, p. 44.

5 Evangelos Kofos: National Identity and National Heritage in Twentieth-Century Macedonia. In: Evangelos Kofos, Nationalism and Communism in Macedonia: Civil Conflict, Politics of Mutation, National Identity, Aristide Caratzas Publ., 1993, 305–336, p. 317.

6 Nikolaos Zahariadis: Nationalism and Small State Foreign Policy: The Greek Response to the Macedonian Issue. In: Political Science Quarterly, 109 (1994) 4, 647–668, p. 655.

7 Nicholas Andriotis: The Confederate State of Skopje and Its Language. Athens, 1957, 6.

8 Evangelos Kofos: The Macedonian Question: The Politics of Mutation. In: Balkan Studies, 27 (1986) 157–172, p. 170.

9 Spyros Sfetas: The Birth of ‘Macedonianism’ in the Interwar Period. In: Ioannis Koliopoulos (Ed.), The History of Macedonia. Museum of Macedonian Struggle, Thessaloniki, 2007, 285–303, p. 300.

10 Krste Petkov Misirkov was born 18 November 1874 in the village of Postol (part of Ottoman Macedonia at that time, today the Hellenic Republic) and died 26 July 1926 in Sofia (then the Kingdom of Bulgaria, today the Republic of Bulgaria). Misirkov was a Macedonian philologist who developed a form of literary Macedonian and an orthography. He authored the book “On Macedonian Matters,” which was published in Sofia 1903.

11 S. Sfetas: op cit., p. 300.

12 E. Kofos: supra note 8, p. 170.

13 Ibid, pp. 170–171.

14 Vlassis Vlasidis and Veniamin Karakostanoglou: Recycling Propaganda: Remarks on Recent Reports on Greece’s “Slav-Macedonian Minority.” In: Balkan Studies, 36 (1995) 151–170, p. 163.

15 Evangelos Kofos: The Unresolved ‘Difference Over the Name’: A Greek Perspective. In: E. Kofos and V. Vlasidis: Athens – Skopje; An Uneasy Symbiosis. ELIAMEP, Athens, 2005, 125–223, p. 201.

16 See: Samuel P. Huntington: The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century. University of Oklahoma Press, 1993.

17 See: Robert Caplan: Balkan Ghosts: A Journey Through History. Picador, 2005.

18 Misha Glenny: The Balkans: Nationalism, War & the Great Powers. Penguin Books, 2001, 634–662.

19 See: E. Kofos: supra note 5, pp. 316, 325.

20 See: Peter Mackridge and Eleni Yannakakis (Eds.): Ourselves and Others: The Development of a Greek–Macedonian Cultural Identity Since 1912. Bloomsbury Academic, 1997.

21 See: Stephen Ladas: The Exchange of Minorities: Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey. Macmillan, 1932.

22 See: Victor Roudometof: Collective Memory, National Identity, and Ethnic Conflict: Greece, Bulgaria and the Macedonian Question. Greenwood, 2001, 39–46.

23 See: Vemund Aarbakke: Who can Mend a Broken Heart? Macedonia’s Place in Modern Bulgarian History. In: I. Stefanidis, V. Vlasidis and E. Kofos (Eds.): Macedonian Identities through Time: Interdisciplinary Approaches. Epikentro Publ., Thessaloniki, 2010, 184–212.

24 Чавдар Маринов, Македонското прашање од 1944 до денес: Комунизмот и национализмот на Балканот, Скопје, 2013, pp. 91, 107.

25 The quotation comes from the “historical argumentation” that was elaborated by the Bulgarian government’s representative at the European Court of Human Rights in relation to Bulgaria’s refusal to register an association, “OMO Ilinden,” composed of ethnic Macedonians in Bulgaria. See: European Court of Human Rights: Case of Stankov and the United Macedonian Organization Ilinden v. Bulgaria. Strasbourg, 2 October 2001, para. 47.

26 On the transformation of the way Serbian nationalism represented Macedonia and its eventual conversion by Serbian nationalism from terra incognita to terra irredenta, or in other words, to “the classical land in which the Serbian nation had long ago achieved great deeds,” see: Konstatinos Katsanos: Macedonia of the Serbs, 1870–1941: From Old Serbia to Southern Serbia: In: Stefanidis, Vlasidis and Kofos (Eds.): Macedonian Identities through Time, supra note 22, pp. 162–183.

27 See: Ivo Banac: The National Question in Yugoslavia: Origin, History, Politics, Cornell University Press, 1984, 70–115.

28 See: Bernd Fischer: Albanian Nationalism in the Twentieth Century. In: Peter Sugar (Ed.): Eastern European Nationalism in the Twentieth Century. American University Press, Washington, 1995, 21–54.

29 See: Andrew Rossos: Macedonia and the Macedonians: A History. Hoover Institution Press, Stanford, 2008.

30 Alain Pellet: The Opinions of the Badinter Arbitration Commission: A Second Breath for the Self-Determination of Peoples. In: European Journal of International Law, 3 (1992) 178–185; Danilo Türk: Recognition of States: A Comment. In: European Journal of International Law, 4 (1993) 66–91.

31 See: Demetrius Andreas Floudas: Pardon? A Conflict for a Name? FYROM’s Dispute with Greece Revisited, in G.A. Kourvetaris et al (Eds.), The New Balkans: Disintegration and Reconstruction. New York, Columbia University Press, 2002, 85–114, p. 88.

32 Extraordinary EPC Ministerial Meeting: Declaration on Yugoslavia. Brussels, 16 December 1991. In: Danilo Türk: Recognition of States…, supra note 29, p. 73.

33 Bernard Ramcharan: The International Conference on the Former Yugoslavia: Official Papers (Vol. II). Kluwer Law International, 1997, 1274–1275.

34 Demetrius Andreas Floudas: Pardon? A Conflict for a Name..., supra note 30, p. 88.

35 European Council in Lisbon, Conclusions of the Presidency: European Declaration on Former Yugoslavia, 26/27 June 1992, SN 3321/2792/Rev2, Annex II.

36 See: Daniele Conversi: Germany and the Recognition of Croatia and Slovenia. In: Brad Blitz (Ed.): War and Change in the Balkans: Nationalism, Conflict and Cooperation. Cambridge University Press, 2006, 57–75, p. 57.

37 Richard Caplan: Europe and Recognition of New States in Yugoslavia. Cambridge University Press, 2005, 133–137.

38 Andrew Rossos: The Disintegration of Yugoslavia, Macedonia’s Independence and Stability in the Balkans. In: Brad Blitz (Ed.): War and Change in the Balkans: Nationalism, Conflict and Cooperation. Cambridge University Press, 2006, 110–117, p. 110.

39 Memorandum of Greece Concerning the Application of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia for Admission to the United Nations. New York, 25 January 1993. In: Snezana Trifunovska (Ed.): Yugoslavia Through Documents: From Its Creation to Its Dissolution. Martinus Nijhoff, 1994, 807–810.

40 Ibid.

41 Ibid.

42 Ibid.

43 Misho Dokmanovic: Memorandum of Greece and Memorandum of Macedonia Regarding Admission of Macedonia to the United Nations. In: S. Shkaric, D. Apasiev and V. Patchev: The Name Issue: Greece and Macedonia. Matica Makedonska, Skopje, 2009, 266–278, p. 274.

44 Ibid, p. 273.

45 UN Security Council: Resolution 817/93, S/RES/817/93, Adopted on 7 April 1993.

46 Evangelos Kofos: Greece’s Macedonian Adventure: The Controversy Over FYROM’s Independence and Recognition. In: Van Coufoudakis, Harry J. Psomiades and Andre Gerolymatos (Eds.): Greece and the New Balkans: Challenges and Opportunities. New York, 1999, 361–394, p. 369.

47 Peter Mackridge: Language and National Identity in Greece: 1766–1976. Oxford University, 2009, p. 9.

48 John S. Koliopoulos and Thanos M. Veremis: Modern Greece: A History since 1821. 2009, 17.

49 P. Mackridge: Language and National, p. 1.

50 John S. Koliopoulos and Thanos M. Veremis: Greece; The Modern Sequel from 1831 to the Present. London, 2002, 250–253.

51 Koliopoulos and Veremis: Greece; The Modern Sequel, p. 228.

52 Ерик Хобсбаум: Нациите и национализмот по 1870 година; програма, мит, стварност. Скопје, 1993, p. 91.

53 P. Mackridge: Language and National, p. 15.

54 Ibid. Mackridge adds that liberation nationalism, by definition is dynamic, whereas state nationalism is characterised by conservatism.

55 Ιωαννη Σ. Κολιοπουλου: „Η Μακεδονια των Ελληνων Μακεδονομαχων”, Ιστορικα, Η Συγκροτηση του νεοελληνικου κρατους, Αθηνα, Ιουλιος 2010, p. 65.

56 Koliopoulos and Veremis: Modern Greece: A History..., p. 48.

57 Marija Pandevska: The Term Macedonian(s) in Ottoman Macedonia: On the Map and in the Mind, In: Nationalities Papers, The Journal of Nationalism and Ethnicity, A publication of the Association for the Study of Nationalities, 40 (2012) 5, 747–766.

58 According to Andrew Rossos the first phase of the Macedonian ‘awakening,’ from around 1814 to 1870, did not reveal a predominant tendency or prevailing national consciousness. He described it as a “Slavic phase.” Andrew Rossos: Macedonia and, supra note 28, p. 83.

59 Dimitris Livanios: The Quest for Hellenism: Religion, Nationalism and Collective Identities in Greece (1453–1913). In: The Historical Review. 3 (2006) 60, 66.

60 Димитрис Литоксоу: „Грчката антимакедонска борба I; Од Иилинден до Загоричани (1903–1905). превод Васко Караџа, Скопје, 2004.

61 One example, from the many available, is the case of a former commander in the Macedonian Revolutionary Organisation (MRO), Kote Hristov, whom a Greek Bishop, Germanos Karavangelis, attempted to convince to join the Greek paramilitary forces, by using exactly that formulation. See: Германос Каравангелис: Македонската борба (мемоари). Скопје, 2000, p. 16.

62 D. Livanios: The Quest for Hellenism: Religion, Nationalism and…, p. 60.
    According to Pavlos Voskopoulos, Greek propaganda institutions in Macedonia, as in Greece, most commonly referred to Macedonian Patriarchists as “Slavophones.” The latter, in the view of Greek institutions, denoted an element of the population which had a “Slavic orientation” but a Greek national consciousness. See: Павлос Воскопулос: Македонското прашање и грчката надворешна политика. Нова зора, бр. 2, Лерин, јули 1997, p. 4.

63 Ернст Гелнер: Нациите и национализмот. Скопје, 2001, p. 7.

64 Е. Хобсбаум: Нациите и национализмот по 1870 година..., p. 194.

65 Анастасија Каракасиду: Трансформирање на идентитетот, создавање на свеста: Принуда и хомогеност во Северозападна Грција, Виктор Рудоментоф. Македонско прашање. Скопје, 2003, p. 81.

66 Anastasia Karakasidou: Politicizing Culture: Negating Ethnic Identity in Greek Macedonia. In: Journal of Modern Greek Studies, 1993, 4.

67 Василис Гунарис, Јаковос Михаилидис: Перото и мечот: Преглед на историографијата на македонското прашање. Македонското прашње. уредник Виктор Рудометоф. Скопје, 2003, p. 137–195.

68 Michalis Kaliakatsos: Ion Dragoumis and ‘Machiaveli’: Armed struggle, propaganda and Hellenization in Macedonia and Thrace (1903–1908). In: Journal of Modern Greek Studies, 31 (May 2013) 1, 59.

69 The Greek Premier, Harilaos Trkoupis, in an interview with a British newspaper, the Manchester Guardian, talked about the challenges that would face the Kingdom of Greece should the Ottoman Empire collapse in the Balkans and the rivalry between the Balkan states for the acquisition of Ottoman Macedonia. In the course of that he underlined that in his opinion, the bulk of the “Slavic” inhabitants of Macedonia “have not developed a national identity.” See: Σπ. Β. Μαρκεζινη: Πολιτικη ιστορια της νεωτερας Ελλαδος 1828–1964, Ατηναι, 1966, p. 215.

70 The impracticality of a dynamic development of nationalities among the population of the late Ottoman period was also observed by a large number of European diplomatic representatives in the Ottoman Empire. For example an official and interpreter in the Italian consulate located in Bitola, Mihail Pineta (who, was well versed in the discharge of consular work as the actual consuls were often absent), in a report dated 9 May 1906 and sent to the Italian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Gvardinichi, discussed the ethnography of the Bitola Vilayet and concluded that “national consciousness in these areas is a fantasy.” Moreover, according to Pineta, what one mostly finds is “that among themselves, they mostly regard each other as brothers and that they have only one enemy, the Turk, who has a different religion.” See: Silvano Gallon: Rapporti Politici dei Regi Consoli d’Italia a Monastir (1895–1916). Bitola, 2004, pp. 336, 337.

71 Марк Мазовер: Балканот: кратка историја. Скопје, 2003, p. 69.

72 Σοφια Βουρη: Εκπαιδευση και εθνικοσμος στα Βαλκανια; Η περιπτωση της βορειοδυτικης Μακεδονιας 1870–1904. Αθηνα, 1992, p. 20.

73 Ιωνος Δραγουμης: Τα Τετραδια του Ιλιντεν. Γιωργος Πετσιβας. Αθηνα, 2000, p. 622–634.

74 Koliopoulos and Veremis: Greece; The modern sequel..., p. 162.

75 An English journalist who spent some time observing the situation in Macedonia during the early 1900s noted that: “If the Greek peasant fails as a rule to learn the language and reads it with difficulty, the case of the half-Hellenised Albanian, or Vlach, or Bulgarian, is desperate”. See: Хенри Ноел Брејлсфорд: Македонија; нејзините народи и нејзината иднина. Скопје, 2003, p. 279.

76 Ι. Δραγουμης: Τα Τετραδια..., p. 622–634.

77 Димитар Љоровски Вамваковски: Политичката реалност и изумирањето на митот за Давид и Голијат: Македонија и Грција на Балканот. Скопје, 2014, p. 73–80.

78 Ναταλια Μελα: Παυλος Μελας. Αθηνα, 1926, p. 241.

79 Ν. Μελα: Παυλος Μελας. p. 243

80 Исто: p. 258.

81 Γεωργιου Τσοντου-Βαρδα: Ο Μακεδονικος αγων; Ημερολογιο 1906. Τομος Β1, Εισαγωγη-επιμελεια-σχολια Γιωργος Πετσιβας. Αθηνα, 2003, p. 272.

82 Γ. Τσοντου-Βαρδα: Ο Μακεδονικος αγων; Ημερολογιο 1906..., p. 275.

83 Исто: p. 283.

84 Γεωργιου Τσοντου-Βαρδα: Ο Μακεδονικος αγων; Ημερολογιο 1907. Τομος Β2, Εισαγωγη-επιμελεια-σχολια Γιωργος Πετσιβας, Αθηνα, 2003, p. 866.

85 Γεωργιου Τσοντου-Βαρδα: Ο Μακεδονικος αγων; Ημερολογιο 1904–1905. Τομος А, Εισαγωγη-επιμελεια-σχολια Γιωργος Πετσιβας, Αθηνα, 2003, p. КГ.

86 Ιων Δραγουμης: Μαρτυρων και ηρωων αιμα, εκδ. Μαλλιαρης-Παιδεια, 1907, p. 98.

87 Εφ. Σκριπ, 1905, p. 1.

88 Исто.

89 Σοφια Βουρη: Οικοτροφεια και υποτροφεις στη Μακεδονια (1903–1913). Αθηνα, 2005, стр. 262–285.

90 Σ. Βουρη: Οικοτροφεια και υποτροφεις..., стр. 274, 275.

91 Исто, стр. 416–422.

←60 | 61→

3.Macedonian at the Margins: The Dialects of Kostur (Καστοριά)

Victor A. Friedman

University of Chicago, La Trobe University


In this article I wish to address a phenomenon in a dialect of Modern Macedonian that is spoken in Greece and its implications for the history of Macedonian and of multilingualism on territory that is now part of the Greek nation-state. Given the current debates surrounding the presence of Macedonian in Greece and even the right of the speakers of this language to call it Macedonian, a very brief introduction will set this article in its broader context. Although the dialectological details are somewhat technical, I have tried to make them accessible to the non-specialist without sacrificing accuracy. As of this writing (February 2018), the Greek state continues to dispute the right of Macedonian speakers to call their language Macedonian (a claim that has no legal or rational basis and which has been ruled a human rights violation in Australia),1 and it continues to deny the presence of ethnolinguistic minorities on its territory (by claiming that all citizens of Greece are Greek and by defining minority solely in terms of religion).2 The current disputes have their origins in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when all of what had come to be called Macedonia – basically the districts making up the vilayets of Monastir (Bitola) and Selânik (Solun, Θεσσαλονικη) and the Sancak of Üsküp (Skopje) in the vilayet of Kosova in the Ottoman Empire during the late 19th century – was fought over and eventually partitioned by the then much smaller nation-states of Greece, Serbia, and Bulgaria, with a few dozen Macedonian speaking villages ←61 | 62→going to the Albanian state that emerged from these same struggles. At that time, and for centuries and millennia before that. as well as up into the present day, all of this territory was home to a variety of languages. The history of this multilingualism, and particularly the contribution that peripheral Macedonian dialects can make to understanding this history, is the topic of this article.

The Slavic-speaking presence on the territory of what is today the Greek nation-state is attested everywhere on the Hellenic peninsula in toponyms, especially before Greek name changes of the 20th century and, to this day, in the south of Modern Greece, where many Slavic toponyms have remained unchanged (Vasmer 1941). There is also Byzantine documentary evidence of Slavic-speakers, the Melingi and Erezitae, still in the southern Peloponnese in the 14th century (Fine 1983: 83, 1987: 70, 166). The existence of Slavic toponyms all over what is today Modern Greece is as certain a reference to previous linguistic groups as is the presence of Native American toponyms in the United States where there have long been no speakers of the languages whose remnants consist in precisely those toponyms. Moreover, the fact that in Arvanitika shklerisht now means ‘Greek’ may constitute additional evidence. The root shkler- reflects the Tosk Albanian development of the form slaven- (> sklaven- > shklen- > shkler-) ‘Slav’. The question is whether the usage dates from when Arvanitika was being spoken on the territory of what is today Greece and had Slavic speaking neighbors who were subsequently Hellenized or whether the term predates the migration of Albanian speakers to what is now central and southern Greece, and they simply transferred the term for their old neighbors to their new neighbors. Be that as it may, as Hamp (1963) has shown, some of the Slavic toponyms in Greece have come through an Arvanitika intermediary, which suggests that Slavic and Arvanitika speakers were in contact after the migration of the latter to Greece. While Slavic was once spoken all over what is today Greece, at present the descendants of those Common Slavic dialects are spoken only in Macedonia and Thrace, of which it is the Macedonian dialects that will be of interest here, and specifically the dialects of the southwestern margin, i.e. those of the Kostur (Καστοριά) region. There are three points that I wish to make in the course of this examination. The first is that the Kostur region has a long history of linguistic complexity, and, precisely because it is currently the southwestern margin of Macedonian, that complexity continues the heritage of the Balkan linguistic league. This leads to my second point, which is that peripheral dialects can be both innovating and conservative, and the ←62 | 63→Macedonian and Greek dialects of the Kostur region illustrate both these points. Finally, my third point is that the complexities of the past continue into the present and are worthy of study in their larger Balkan context.

In discussing the margins of the Macedonian language, itself descended directly from the dialects of the Slavic speakers of whom some settled in the Hellenic peninsula during the 6th–7th centuries CE, there is the question of time-depth vis-à-vis the present and the past. The margins of today are not the same as the margins of a millennium ago, or even of five centuries ago. This point is made clear by the 16th century Kostur Dictionary (Giannelli and Vaillant 1958). At the time the lexicon was written, the village of Bogacko (Βογατσικό) was bilingual in both Greek and Macedonian. By the time of Kănčov (1900: 267), the village was entirely Greek speaking. The process of Hellenizing non-Greek villages has a very long history. According to Fine (1983: 82–83), the process was already underway in the Peloponnesos in the 9th century, and, in a series of events that would be replicated in Macedonia in the 1920s, Greeks from other parts of the Mediterranean were forcibly transferred to the Peloponnesos, Macedonia, and Thrace with the express purpose of creating conditions for Hellenizing the Slavic speaking population. Despite the fact that the Byzantine Greeks sponsored the creation of a Slavonic liturgy and the translation of Christian books for purposes of proselytizing in foreign states, the Slavonic liturgy was forbidden in the Byzantine Empire itself (Fine 1983: 82). We can also note here that the apparent war on Slavic literacy in Byzantine territories continued throughout the Middle Ages. Here Fine (1983: 220) deserves to be quoted in full:

This policy of Hellenization [in Slavic-speaking Byzantine territory –VAF] became particularly intense under Archbishop Theophylact of Ohrid (ca. 1090–1109), whose surviving letters are a major source for this period. Theophylact closed Slavic schools, introduced Greek-language services in many places, and encouraged the translation from Slavonic into Greek of many local texts. [...] There also seems to have been a systematic destruction of Slavic manuscripts. Not one Slavic manuscript written prior to the establishment of the Second Bulgarian Empire in the 1180s has survived within Bulgaria. Scholars have long blamed the Ottoman Turks for the destruction of Bulgarian texts. But though it is certain that many Bulgarian manuscripts were destroyed during and after the Ottoman conquest, still this, ←63 | 64→as Yugoslav scholar Vladimir Mošin [1963: 67] has shown, is not sufficient explanation. If the Ottomans had been responsible, one would not expect any medieval Bulgarian texts to have survived. However, several hundred manuscripts from the Second Bulgarian Empire have been preserved in Bulgaria. Furthermore, many Greek manuscripts from as far back as the ninth and tenth centuries have been preserved in Ohrid. Thus, Mošin reasonably concludes, a systematic destruction of Slavic manuscripts evidently occurred prior to the thirteenth century, namely during the period when Byzantium ruled Bulgaria. (Those writings from the First Bulgarian Empire which have been discussed in this work [Fine 1983 –VAF] have all been preserved abroad, chiefly in Russia.)

From a linguistic point of view, the Ottoman period in the Balkans was actually quite beneficial to the survival of the various languages spoken there at that time, and multilingualism flourished (cf. Friedman 2007). The 18th century, however saw the revival of linguicidal Hellenizing policies as exemplified by people like Kosmos the Aetolian (Wace and Thompson 1914: 193–194) and, ironically, Daniil of Moschopolis (Albanian Voskopoja), who began life as an Aromanian speaker but then worked to destroy his first language as well as the other non-Hellenic languages of Greek Orthodox Christians (see Friedman 2017).3

As just noted, already by the time of Kănčov (1900), villages that in previous centuries had been Macedonian (or mixed) were entirely Greek speaking. The creep of Hellenization was especially strong at the southern margins of Macedonian. In Kănčov’s day, there were no Macedonian speakers living south of latitude 40º 19’ N, which runs through Lepčišta (Λαψίστα), although Albanian, Aromanian, Romani and Turkish were still all spoken in that ←64 | 65→region at that time.4 Kănčov (1900: 272) notes that some Macedonian villages just north of the line, e.g., Molasi (Διάλεκτο), Vitan (Βοτανιον), and others, were in the process of Hellenization, as were some of the non-Greek villages south of that line. Nonetheless, there must have been considerable stable multilingualism at the margins of the Kostur region for many centuries. This is seen for example, in the multilingual folksongs of Janoveni (Γιαννοχώρι) and the neighboring villages (cited in Friedman 2015). While multilingualism was a characteristic of villages all over Macedonia, as well as elsewhere in the Balkans, one of the characteristics of the Macedonian dialects of the Janoveni villages, which is shared to varying degrees with other villages on the margins of the Kostur region, i.e. the margin of the margin, as it were, is the preservation of the nasality that existed in Common Slavic nasal vowels in the form of homorganic nasal consonants before other consonants (m+b/p, n+d/t, etc.). As it turns out, preservation of nasality is an areal feature shared by Macedonian and Greek dialects in the Kostur region, and nasalized stops are also characteristic of local Albanian and Aromanian dialects.

For example in the Macedonian dialects at the edge of the Kostur region, Common Slavic *zõbŭ/zõbi ‘tooth/teeth’ gives zəmp/ zəmbi or zɔmp/zɔmbi or zåmp/zåmbi and a bit further from the edge zəp/zəmbi or zɔp/zɔmbi or zåp/zåmbi, and further still the reflexes are zap/zabi or zəp/zəbi or zɔp/zɔbi. At least since Illič-Svityč (1962), the homorganic nasal consonants have been viewed as archaisms, which in a sense they are, since they represent a feature, nasality, that was lost elsewhere in Macedonian. However, as I shall argue, this feature, namely the homorganic nasal consonant, began as an innovation in the context of language contact. It can thus be described as an innovation masquerading as a conservatism. There are two variables of interest here. One is whether a homorganic nasal is present, and if so, whether before both voiced and voiceless stops (e.g. voiced /b/ and voiceless /p/) or only before voiced stops.5 Those ←65 | 66→dialects with the nasal consonant before voiced and voiceless obstruents are at the southwestern edges of Macedonian, while those with the nasal only before voiced stops form a band of dialects between those with nasals in both environments and those completely without nasals. The other interesting variable is the realization of the vowel itself: /ə/ or ɔ/ or /å/, which, I shall argue below, is related to whether or not Greek had a strong influence.

In order to understand the nature of the Macedonian developments, it is first necessary to discuss the linguistic situation during the late Middle Ages and the early Ottoman period. At the time Slavic speakers arrived in the Balkans in the 6th and 7th centuries, the language that they spoke was more or less what we can reconstruct as Common Slavic. By the time of our earliest attested Slavic language documents, which date to the 9th century, dialectal divisions were already apparent, such that our oldest texts – in Old Church Slavonic – were very close to, but not identical with, Common Slavic as it is reconstructed. What we do not have documented at all is what the linguistic situation was outside the walled towns of the Eastern Roman Empire during the centuries after the arrival of Slavic speakers. As noted above, the evidence of toponymy indicates that Slavic speakers settled all over what is today Greece, but we do not have any direct evidence of language contact and language shift during this period. What we do know for certain were the following linguistic facts. First, Greek speakers were forcibly resettled in the region, as noted above. Second, Albanian speakers migrated southward, and although the exact timing of these migrations is subject to debate, they occurred at some point or points during the medieval period. According to Eric Hamp (p.c.), the dialectology of Arvanitika represents a consistent continuum with the Çam and Lab dialects to their north (in Epirus/Çamëria and southern Albania, respectively). Third, after the Roman conquest of the Balkans which began in the 2nd century BCE and continued into the 2nd century CE, Latin had legal standing throughout the peninsula, and it was the language of administration, the army, and, eventually, the Church throughout the Roman Empire, including the Balkans (Jireček 1911: 18), until Greek began, in the 4th century, what became its eventual domination of the Eastern Empire in the 7th century (Mihaescu 1978: 54). Latin remained a language of inscriptions in the Balkans north of the Jireček-Skok lines until the ←66 | 67→6th century.6 It is the Latin of the Balkans that is the source of Balkan Romance (Romanian, Aromanian, and Meglenoromanian), and the question of how Latinity was spread, preserved, and/or lost is essentially moot. What is certain is that the concentrations of Aromanian speakers in northern Greece (Pindus and Grammos Mountains), southern Albania (Frashër and Grabova), and Southwest Macedonia (Gopeš and Molovišta) are of long standing and their dialects represent descendants of Balkan Latin (Saramandu and Nevaci 2014). The current dialectological distributions represent centuries of population movement but need not be of concern here.

By the time anything even approaching reliable ethnolinguistic data emerges in the early 19th century, the picture is roughly that which was recorded at the beginning of the 20th century. For the purposes of this article, it is reasonable to assume that the contacts among the dialects that gave rise to Modern Albanian, Aromanian, Macedonian, and Greek in the Kostur region go back to the medieval period, and it is the sound changes of this period that gave rise to the current situation in the Kostur dialect of Macedonian, to which I now return.

At the time Common Slavic speakers entered the Balkans, their vocalic system included at least two nasal vowels.7 Over the course of time, the nasal vowels were lost in all of Slavic except in Polish, where they underwent a period of merger to nasalized schwa before separating again into front and back nasals ←67 | 68→whose frontness and backness was determined by other factors, so that nasality is etymological but position (front/back) sometimes is not. The peripheral southern Macedonian dialects, however, unlike the rest of Slavic, except Polish, preserved nasality in the form of a nasal consonant [m, n, ɳ] before labials (b, p), dentals (d, t) and velars (g, k) respectively as exemplified in the ‘tooth/teeth’ example cited above.8 As noted above, Illič-Svityč (1962) and other scholars considered this retention of nasality to be an archaism, which, in a certain sense it is, since it is a retention of a feature now lost in the rest of Slavic (except Polish). But when the situation is examined in its areal context, what emerges is an argument that the apparent archaism is in fact an ancient innovation that resulted from language contact.

It is at this point that we must examine Medieval Greek, as well as Balkan Latin and Common Albanian (Hamp 1994), in the context of the medieval period when the Common Slavic dialects that would become Macedonian were in contact with the dialects that would become Modern Greek, Albanian, and Aromanian.9 It was precisely during the Middle Ages that Koine Greek underwent the changes characteristic of Medieval (Byzantine) Greek, Common Albanian underwent the major split into Geg and Tosk dialects, and Latin underwent the changes that would produce the Romance languages. For Greek, the relevant changes in the consonant system were the fricativization of voiced stops (b>v, d>ð, g>ǧ) and the rendering of voiced stops with prenasalization (mb, nd, ɳg).10 Thus, for example, dialectal Greek mbela from Slavic bela meaning ‘a white sheep’ or mbarmba ‘uncle’ from Venetian. This same prenasalization shows up in Aromanian, e.g. mbaliot ‘old inhabitant of Gorna Belica (Bela di suprã)’. For Aromanian, unstressed initial vowels before nasal+stop were lost in the Pindus and Grammos dialects, resulting in prenasalized consonants, a process that also occurs in the Frasheriote dialects in or near The Kostur region, e.g. Korça ntReb ‘ask’ < Vulgar Latin *interroguare (Saramandu and Nevaci 2014: 187).11 A similar change occurred in Common Albanian at some point after ←68 | 69→contact with Latin, such that, e.g., imperator gives Tosk Albanian mbret ‘king’. In Geg, these nasal+stop clusters were simplified, e.g. mret.

There are also features of the respective vocalic systems that are of relevance here. The first is that Greek never had, nor did it develop, a schwa. This complete absence of schwa from the Greek vocalic system will be of relevance when we turn to developments in the southernmost Macedonian dialects of the Kostur region. In Aromanian, there is a dialectal split between north and south, according to which the southern dialects developed a high or mid back unrounded vowel before nasals, whereas the northern dialects, including those in or near the Kostur region, have schwa, e.g. Gardiki plâŋg ‘I weep’, lăcri ‘tears’ vs. Korça plăŋg, lăcrị (Saramandu and Nevaci 2014: 144, 143). Common Albanian developed nasal vowels that were subsequently denasalized in Tosk. Stressed schwa developed only in Tosk, as a result of the denasalization of â or ê.12 Tosk also developed the devoicing of voiced consonants in final position, a development that also occurred in Macedonian and Bulgarian, but not, for the most part, in Geg or the former Serbo-Croatian.13 Taking the Albanian facts together, the indefinite and definite singular of ‘tooth’ serves as a useful illustration: Tosk dhëmp/dhëmbi ‘tooth/the tooth’ vs. Geg dhâm/dhâmi.14 In a sense, the Common Slavic back nasal and the Common Albanian low nasal give the same result not only in Debar, but also in ←69 | 70→southwestern Macedonia and southern Albania, namely an open /o/ in Debar and schwa in southwestern Macedonia and southern Albania.15

Returning now to the reflexes of Common Slavic nasal vowels at the margins of Macedonian, a striking feature is not only the decomposition of the nasal vowel, but also the vowel that is the reflex. The dialects that have a vowel other than schwa, i.e. an open /o/ or a rounded /a/ (represented by ɔ and å, respectively) are all spoken on the southern margins of The Kostur region: South of a line that starts at Kărčišča (Πολύανεμο), running southeast to Ošеni (Οινόη) and southwest to Čuka (Αρχάγγελος) and Nestram (Νεστόριο), then northeast to Gališča (Ομορφακκλησιά) and Dobrolišča (Καλώχορι), south to Staričani (Λακκώματα), then east to Bogacko, all the Macedonian dialects have a rounded reflex of the Common Slavic nasal, elsewhere, all dialects preserving nasality have schwa.16 Of particular significance here is the fact that the dialects with the rounded reflex have this vowel only as a result of nasal vowels – and, sometimes, original syllabic /r/ and /l/, e.g. pårf ‘first’, vålna ‘wool’ – but nowhere else.17 This link between nasal reflexes and vocalic sonorants is significant. That a specific non-schwa vowel arose can be attributed precisely to the lack of schwa (as well as nasal vowels and vocalic sonorants) in Greek, the major regional contact language to the south. The Kostur Macedonian dialects with schwa also show it precisely and only in these same environments.18 Given what we can reconstruct about both the external history of the region and the internal history of the respective languages involved, as well as the testimony of dialectology and linguistic geography, the following scenario can be reconstructed.

Unlike the situation in the Peloponnesus and adjacent regions, where the Slavic dialects were completely replaced by Greek or Albanian by the end of the Middle Ages, the situation in Macedonia, including the regions that were already ←70 | 71→Greek speaking in Kănčov’s (1900) time, was one in which those populations present prior to the Slavic migrations of the 6th and 7th centuries, especially in rural areas, shifted to the Slavic dialects that would become Macedonian. To be sure, the majority of the population throughout what became Greece, outside the walled towns, and perhaps even in the towns in the interior, was, at some point, Slavic speaking. But it was among the rural, i.e. non-urban, population, that the Slavic that would become Macedonian remained the majority language into the modern period. Here we can note that to this day, there are parts of Greek Macedonia where even the prosfiges and their descendants (the Hellenophone and Turcophone populations from Anatolia forcibly resettled in the Greek state in the 1920s) can speak Macedonian, because that is what the majority spoke at the time of resettlement (Monova 2006). It is this socio-demographic fact that justifies the proposition that the decomposition of nasal vowels into homorganic nasal+stop was an innovation at the time that it occurred, and it became an archaism only after the complete loss of nasalization to the north and east of the margins of Macedonian. In those regions where the population had been Greek speaking, the vowel in the decomposition preserved the rounding of the original Common Slavic. In the Albanian-Aromanian areas, the tendency toward reduction to schwa was already in place in those languages as well as the Common Slavic that would become the local Macedonian dialects. Such a proposal is entirely consistent with both Greek dialectology and that of the other languages on the territory of what became the modern Greek nation-state, both of which (dialectology and what are today minority languages) have been anathema to Greek political ideology to the extent that neither has received adequate scholarly attention, although the situation is gradually changing in some respects.19 However, this proposal is not amenable to any “national” ideology. Rather, it posits the kind of multilingual interaction that occurs “on the ground” but is inconvenient for all national myths.

The evidence of the marginal Kostur Macedonian dialects – i.e. those areas which are currently at the edge of Modern Macedonian –show us the effects of ancient bilingualism and language shift which effects did not occur or have been ←71 | 72→lost in other regions where Macedonian is spoken.20 The decomposition of nasal vowels before stops into vowel+nasal consonant, it can be argued, occurred independently of the total denasalization characteristic of most of Macedonian (and Slavic languages in general). Rather, this was a very ancient contact-induced change according to which, in environments before obstruents, the speakers of the contact languages (Albanian, Aromanian, Greek), decomposed Slavic nasal vowels into their closest equivalent (homorganic nasal+stop), and this pronunciation influenced the loss of nasalization in the Macedonian dialects where speakers spoke each other’s languages. The later complete denazalisation that occurred to the north and east gradually pushed its way south and west. As a result, there is a transitional zone where homorganic nasals are preserved only before voiced stops (which, owing to their voicing, have greater articulatory similarity to the nasal consonants), and, moreover, in the course of the past century, complete denasalization has continued to replace the innovative archaism of preservation of homorganic nasals.

It can thus be said that one of the most characteristic features of the most marginal southwestern Macedonian dialects is an innovation that owes its existence to language contact and subsequently became an archaism. Looking now at the local Greek dialects, it can be said that the Macedonian dialects have also influenced them in the directions of archaism and innovation. It is well known that in recent decades there has been a tendency toward denasalization of prenasalized stops in Greek, and descriptions of Modern Greek include plain voiced stops in its phonemic inventory. According to Papadamou and Papanastassiou (2013), however, more consistent preservation of prenasalization with voiced stops is especially characteristic of Greek dialects in the Kostur region. Also characteristic of these northern dialects is an impersonal construction typical of the Slavic languages in general but not found elsewhere in Greek, namely expressions that involve a dative pronoun and an intransitive or middle/medio-passive verb to mean ‘feel like’, e.g. μι πίνιτι ενάς καφές ‘I feel like drinking a coffee’ (literally to-me it-is-drunk/one-drinks one coffee), which corresponds exactly to Macedonian mi se pie edno kafe (and Russian mne pitsja ←72 | 73→kafe) as well as Aromanian nji si biau un cafe and Albanian më pihet një kafe. Here the fact that the constructions occurs in all the Slavic languages and nowhere else in the Greek dialects and also not in Romanian (but also in Meglenoromanian and Arli Romani) suggests that the construction in the non-Slavic Balkan languages and dialects resulted from contact with Slavic, and specifically Macedonian (Friedman and Joseph Forthcoming). Thus, while the effect of Greek and other Balkan languages in peripheral Macedonian dialects lead to an innovation that became an archaism at the margins of Macedonian in the Kostur region – and, moreover, specific vocalic reflexes enable us to identify the influences of different languages at different margins – the Kostur Macedonian dialects have also influenced innovation and the retention of older sound habits in the local Greek dialects.

As I have hoped to have shown in this article, the margins of Macedonian give important evidence for language contact between Macedonian and other languages that were – and still are – spoken in Greece. While the number of speakers of local Albanian and Aromanian dialects is declining, and while local northern Greek dialects are only now beginning to receive the attention they deserve – and are also under pressure from the standard language taught in schools – there is still much that can be learned of their interaction with the Kostur Macedonian dialects. Unfortunately, the Kostur dialect of Turkish was eliminated by the population exchanges mandated by the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, and the Kostur dialect of Judezmo was brought to the verge of extinction by the Nazis and their collaborators during World War Two and has only a few speakers (Confino and Russo 2016).21 So while Balkan Turkish and Balkan Judezmo can be still be studied elsewhere in the Balkans, the multilingual dialectology of the Kostur region no longer includes these languages. Romani, however, is another language of the region whose local dialect should be investigated. At the margins of Macedonian, language contact continues, as it has continued for over a thousand years, and the structural affects on the various dialects attests to ancient as well as modern multilingualism.

←73 | 74→


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Biographical notes

Victor A Friedman (Volume editor) Goran Janev (Volume editor) George Vlahov (Volume editor)

Victor Friedman is Andrew W. Mellon Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus in the Humanities at the University of Chicago and Honorary Adjunct at La Trobe University. His Ph.D. in both Linguistics and Slavic Languages and Literatures is from the University of Chicago, and he holds the degree of Doctor Honoris Causa from Sts. Cyril and Methodius University of Skopje. He is a foreign member of the Academy of Arts and Sciences of North Macedonia, the Academy of Arts and Sciences of Kosova, and the Academy of Sciences of Albania, and he holds the "1300 years of Bulgaria" jubilee medal from the Republic of Bulgaria as well as the Medal of Merit from the Republic of Macedonia. He has received awards for outstanding contributions to scholarship from the Association for Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies and from the Association of Teachers of Slavic and East European Languages. His research deals with all aspects of the languages of the Balkans as well as Daghestanian and Kartvelian linguistics. Goran Janev is professor of social anthropology at the "Sts Cyril and Methodius" University, Skopje, Macedonia. He is employed as a research fellow at the Institute for Sociological, Political and Juridical Research at the same University. He has completed a DPhil in Social Anthropology at the Oxford University. He has written about the interethnic relations and the rise of ethnocracy in Macedonia and the symbolic landscape transformations in the construction of the national identity. His current research interests focus on urban studies, public space, symbolic landscapes, socialist monuments, cultural heritage, and diversity. George Vlahov is an academic at La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences and a PhD candidate who specialises in social theory. He has previously written about Arnason's social theory and the "Macedonian Question".


Title: Macedonia & Its Questions