Whose Macedonia?

A few days ago I went to a party of a friend who was celebrating his Master’s study graduation and encountered a very interesting argument between a Bulgarian friend of mine and a Macedonian girl. Basically as soon as my Bulgarian friend knew the girl is from Macedonia, he started to question her about their ethnic identity. “So you are from Macedonia, then you are Bulgarian.” The girl reacted in such a shocking way that she couldn’t even wait and cut off my friend, “No, I am Macedonian.” And the most shocking sentences I heard at the time as an observer is when she started to explain her Macedonian identity, “The Macedonia, you know Alexander the Great? I am not Bulgarian.” The first part was like a thunderbolt, suddenly caught my full attention in their argument. I bet if there were any Greeks heard this at that time, it would be a tornado to them. But the presence of my Bulgarian friend was enough to ignite the tension to a much higher level, “You said you are related to Greeks?!  How dare you betray your roots? What language do you speak, do you use Cyrillic or Greek alphabets?!” My friend was raising his tone to a new level and then started talking in I-assume-Bulgarian in front of her. But that girl is just as stubborn and angry as him, “No, I speak Macedonian and I am from Macedonia, a great nation!” At the same time my friend also couldn’t wait for her to finish, “You are Bulgarian, even if you said you are Macedonian, no way Alexander the Great is related to you. Greeks won’t even call you Macedonia, wake up and face your own roots!” Apparently both sides got provoked all of sudden to a level where you could even smell the outbreak of the Third Balkan war. Luckily more friends started to notice the unwanted tension in the party and pulled apart both sides. Just like any other Balkan identity discussion, this one ended abruptly with both sides got unconvinced and pretty much pissed (luckily this one didn’t escalate into anything physical like many of the similar arguing).

Balkan, Balkan, Balkan. This was not the first time I witnessed such high tension in the middle of a casual conversation about Balkan. I’ve seen friends who got extremely upset and angry on the surge of Montenegrin nationalism, and and I have helped one time to pull my friend from a potential bar fight over Serbian and Kosovo Albanian. I have also overheard very unpleasant conversation regarding Greek Macedonian and Bulgarian Macedonian (between a Greek and a Bulgarian). And now this. Over so many times whenever I (a Chinese, not even remotely related to Balkan) intended to intervene and flaunt my smug dilettantism about the Balkan region to my Balkan friends, a slice political incorrectness would drag me down to the no-man’s-land, SHOOT ON SITE at any time…

And most of the time they are right about their own history. As an outsider I do have little clue about what’s going on in the Balkan peninsula. So I start reading about their history, their struggle, their anger, and their pain. One couldn’t possibly grasp the messiness of Balkan history, but what I could understand from my increasing understanding of that particular region is, the existence of any ethnic, sectarian, and civil conflict could never be simplified as the good vs evil. Most of the times perpetrators and victims could be the same group of people. Having said that, it is simply amazing to see the level of resentment in between different groups of people over the place. I am really interested to see how European Union would unite this part of Europe, where European culture stems from.

By the way, that Macedonian girl was indeed brainwashed by her government propaganda, modern Macedonians are predominately the descendants of Bulgarians from the first Bulgarian Empire and second Bulgarian Empire (or admixture of Bulgarian and Greeks that assimilated into Bulgarian culture), long after the demise of Greek dominance in the region. Bulgarians took the name of Macedonia from Greeks (while Bulgarian in modern Bulgaria abandon the Greek name of Thrace and use Bulgaria instead). Then Ottoman Turk came and screwed all of the Balkan people. Skirmish persisted in the early 1900s between Greeks and Bulgarians in Macedonia. Then in the first Balkan war Serbia took over and engulfed the territory as part of the former Yugoslavia. Bulgarians were not happy about it. Greeks didn’t like it either. Then second Balkan war broke out, and Bulgaria got served by virtually everything from everywhere. So Macedonia stays in Serbia till the dissolution of former Yugoslavia in 1991. It’s interesting to point out that the rise of Macedonian nationalism is actually quite recent. And indeed those people are quite struggling with their own identity themselves (together with Greeks, Serbs, and Bulgarian’s struggle on Macedonia). So at least in this latest heat debate about Balkan I support my friend and pity the ignorance and pathos of this girl’s Macedonian identity (if she is other ethnic background in Macedonia she would definitely claim her ethnic rather than Macedonian, e.g. Albanian, Turk, or Serb). Sentimentally I would support the unification of Bulgaria and Macedonia, but I don’t like that is ever going to be a realistic option on the diplomatic table.


  1. “Over so many times whenever I (a Chinese, not even remotely related to Balkan) intended to intervene and flaunt my smug dilettantism about the Balkan region to my Balkan friends, a slice political incorrectness would drag me down to the no-man’s-land, shoot on site at any time…”

    I don’t know if you intended it to be, but that was very indicative of what any traveler goes through when dealing with an indigenous population…it was also funny as hell, smug dilettantism my ass…LOL

    “By the way, that Macedonian girl was indeed brainwashed by her government propaganda…”

    Aren’t we all to a point? It’s a struggle to talk to anyone who isn’t aware of the propaganda that surrounds them…and most aren’t…

    Good stuff, you’re keeping me inspired through my vacation…

    1. I remember one time I was in Croatia and literally terrified by all the men in the bar. I was intimidated to talk to the beautiful girls there only because all those damn ultra-built muscles stared at me as if no one should steal their women. And later I witnessed a wedding on an island where people literally shot AK-47 to the sky… War mentality still remains. Their mind clearly profoundly impacted by the recent unpleasant history of Balkan.

    2. “Aren’t we all to a point? It’s a struggle to talk to anyone who isn’t aware of the propaganda that surrounds them…and most aren’t…”

      To a point yea, but the thing is I realized the propaganda of my own government, and could jump outside of the box and look it in a more critical way. It’s a struggle to talk to anyone who isn’t aware of it, but on the same time it’s also a learning process for me to know other perceptions, regardless of right or wrong, and learn about how this works on individual beings.

  2. Let me tell you a joke I know:

    An american and a russian were drinking in a bar. At some point they became a bit tipsy so they started arguing: which is the greater country – USA or Russia. The bartender was just listening to them.
    In the middle of the fight the american looked at the Moon and said “Look at the Moon. It belongs to the USA because we were the first to go there”
    -“What?Are you crazy?”-asked the russian..” WE WERE the FIRST there”
    The bartender, who happened to be macedonian, looked at the Moon and mumbled:
    “Ahhh Moon, land of Macedonia, we shall also fight for you as I see”…..

    I think this says it all 🙂

  3. OK Simon and u Martina.I’m Bulgarian( Martina could be as well) with a lot of Macedonians friends. So my talk is me and a friend of mine(Macedonian) weare r joking all the time about the same topic. He is telling me all the Bulgarians are Macedonians and my answer is: all the Macedonians are Greeks.Its a never ending storry, but during our conversations( with the same friend) he told me:” Ok Greeks are telling Macedonia is ours, Bulgarians are saying Macedonia is ours, so what? Look at the map. Is it there a country called Macedonia.There is, so end of the story.”And he is right.We all go back in the history trying to make the past a ID card for our present.Thats not gonna happen.What it was it what it was.Me as a Bulgarian can feel only sorry about one thing.That thing is Ohrid.Nothing else. Wont to congratulate all The Macedonians with the biggest statue of Alexander the Greatest and the “wise” spended money (9 million eouros) of our goverment.They really know how to piss off the Greeks in the “cheapest” way possible:))))))).

  4. Dimitar, you are right, I am Bulgarian and that is why I have a special opinion on the topic. First of all, I would like to make it clear that I do respect Macedonia’s identity and independence. I am not even thinking of convincing the people there that they are Bulgarians or Greeks. They are Macedonians and that is more than obvious.

    The problem for me is that we want them to accept their past, to agree that we have common roots. But Macedonians are trying to control our present – according to them Dilma Rouseff and Dimitar Berbatov are Macedonians, Bulgaria is a part of Macedonia. Isnt it a brainwash?

    Bulgarians have never denied their past and this is the only thing we want from our “brothers” (as you know we call every Macedonian). 🙂 I am sure you agree with me, brother 😉

  5. Yugoslavia when it existed, was home to all South-Slavs with exception of Bulgaria. Civil society’s common understandings of shared common heritage there, traced back to Slavic. Changes to that understanding came to FYRoM after the fall of socialism in 1991 when Yugoslavia went into self-destruct mode, expired, disintegrated, ceased to exist like contingent continuant land of the South-Slavs. From one Federal Socialist Yugoslavia, 6 new Republics came into being, with 7th one (Kosovo) pending to become one. Our focus though, is on FYRoM the 6th one. The Democratic Peoples Republic of Makedonija came to Yugoslavia August 2nd 1944, when southern Yugoslavia was under Bulgarian occupation. The name changed shortly afterwards to Peoples Republic of Macedonija in 1945. In 1946, it was formally incorporated into the Yugoslav Federation proper. In 1963, the name changed again to Socialist Republic of Macedonija. And in 1991, FYRoM declared full independence whereupon the name went through one more change to become Republic of Macedonia.

    The concept of making changes to civil society’s common understandings of shared common heritage came to FYRoM during late 1980’s with big influx of (i) western money, and (ii) Canadian diasporic ideas related to foreign policy stance. Most of the funds were used to finance literary production of pseudo-historical revisionism and most of the ideas were orientated towards humiliating Greek people, ridiculing Greece, and belittling Hellenism. Civil society’s common understandings of shared common heritage in FYRoM, changed. Slavic heritage changed to Macedonian heritage on scripture of national historical narrative which made ancient-Macedonians, proto-Slavs, and Alexander the Great, the first Czar of the Slavs. Western money and Canadian diasporic ideas set FYRoM on wrong path towards self-destruction.

    FYRoM should have stayed true to it’s Slavic heritage and scripted itself national ethnogenesis story to reflect that, rather than contest verity of Western-worlds long-established cultural-historical narrative. In that narrative Macedon is Greek Kingdom. Greeks live there >3 Millenniums. Macedonians are Hellenic on this basis. FYRoM is 24 years old this year, and still trying to figure out how to balance paternal Slavic heritage with fictitious Macedonian one. Laws governing population-dynamics dictate that people-groups can blossom more than one heritage but in the FYRoM case, it would need the tacit approval of Yugoslavian population-dynamic to split heritage into 2 parts…Pre-Slavic heritage before 6th Century AD, and Slavic heritage afterwards. To put it another way – Byzantine heritage before 6th Century AD, and Slavic heritage afterwards.

    Macedonian heritage through the Byzantine connection is argument to be had, but a very weak one. Continuity always follows path of least resistance…FYRoM claims to Macedonian heritage is a claim, but a frail tired claim, when weighted against Greece, the Hellenic Republic, the legitimate heir inheritor of Byzantine Eastern-Roman Empire. FYRoM fighting against Greece for historic rights, and heritage rights to Macedonian legacy is a fight FYRoM cannot win. The overlap between Southernmost Slavs and Northernmost Greeks, may entitle some Slavs to claim Macedonian heritage, and some Greeks to claim Slavic heritage, the delineation between the two is cultural and linguistic only, nothing more than this. Slavs live next to Macedonians, for >1300 years – Greeks know Slavs and Slavs know Macedonians. The distinction between them is not so blurry, one cannot tell who is who!

  6. FYROM is the results of the Serbian twat Tito (head of Yugoslavia) and the sodding Bulgarian Communist Party (BCP) who basically not only allowed all that to happen back then but actively encouraged it. It is little known nowadays but the BCP was this close to abandoning a large part of the South-eastern Bulgaria along with it’s population due to negotiations with Stalin to tear down the Bulgarian state and create a couple of new nations and states. Bulgarians and Serbs have had a lot of problems in the past and even today through the government of FYROM you can witness the anti-Bulgarian propaganda that can be found anywhere in the state-owned medias (newspapers, magazines and TV channels). A representative of FYROM to me is a person, who doesn’t want to admit that his/her country was part of Bulgarian before Yugoslavia, wears an ancient Greek helment, waves a flag that is a total rip-off of the Japanese Imperial flag and sings Serbian songs. As one famous architect from FYROM (who is also against the current government) stated in an interview: Skopije looks like a Disneyland nowadays.

    Many famous Bulgarian rebels were part of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (which VMRO–DPMNE today claims to have inherited…) and fought against the Ottoman Turkish empire in order to free all Bulgarians.

    I have no idea what happened in less than a century to that part of the world but all I can say is that communism is a bitch.

  7. Well, for the sake of argument I have to ask: did you know that there are at least 4-5 wars waged because of the issue with Macedonia? The biggest reason why Bulgaria joined Germany in both World wars was because of the promise it will get Macedonia back (in WW2 Bulgaria did actually talked to the Allied forces however (do take a note here) the Allied forces have promised Macedonia to Serbia). And with back I mean territories heavily populated with people who basically speak the same language, have the same cultural traditions etc. who later on during the time that part of the world was part of Yugoslavia got so brain-washed that they started to hate the guts of their own flesh and blood. Even today there is a pro-Serbian and anti-Bulgarian government at the top of FYROM which throws crazy money at keeping a pipe-dream alive while outside of Skopje everything is a slum and the people are starving. The thing is that Serbs and Bulgarians don’t get along mostly because Bulgaria has kicked Serbia’s butt one too many times and Serbia is a sour looser. That said I’m sick of all the pointless tension in that region. This very same tension was the reason why the Ottoman Turks raped and pillaged for almost 500 years instead of all the dumb ass Balkan nations uniting against the great common threat which returned the Balkan region back to the Stone age while the rest of the world kept going in terms of innovations, science, technologies etc.. Ok, “Macedonians” want to be a separate nation – fine! In fact Bulgaria was the first country to recognize FYROM as a country. However the fact that the government basically steals from both Greeks and Bulgarians (note: not from Serbians!!!) when it comes to both culture and history will keep the flames up and high till the end of time because both the Greeks and Bulgarians are pretty old nations and since they have nothing else to brag about nowadays (I mean look at the state of both countries…) they want at least their history to remain where it is. I blame all this on the f@ckin communist regime which made all that crap (Yugoslavia, Bulgarian and Greek communist parties etc.) possible. There is not a single place on Earth where things aren’t rotten to their core if communism was there.

  8. Btw mate, since you are from Chine to take a closer look at a very specific region between China and India and also between China and Japan and think about the state of things there. 😉

  9. I am relieved and pleased that when looking into the answer of who was right in the argument that you came to the correct conclusion that your male friend was right. Everything about this pseudo nation is Bulgarian, from the Lion as its symbol, from its national holiday Illinden (which is also celebrated in Bulgaria) to the language to Tsar Samuel as being one of their historical leaders. The whole nation was born out of a dream, out of a idea that had finally become reality. The difference in the people and language is as different as Austrian and the Germans. As for Alexander the Great being Macedonian and claiming that he was not Greek, that would be like saying that Leonida because he was from Sparta was not Greek also (Macedonia was and is a Greek city state).

    Macedonians worshiped the 12 Greek Gods (something only the Greek tribes did),

    Macedonians also participated in the Olympics (and to do so only Greeks were allowed to compete – Their claim sounds absurd – the claim that Greeks only competed with the exception of one of its most fiercest rivals ?

    The Macedonians talked to the ancient Greeks without the use of a translator therefore they spoke a ancient Greek language and not this Western Bulgarian dialect that the people of FYROM speak.

    Congratulations my friend on seeking and finding the truth – a sign of a person with intelligence.

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