The Macedonian question - Slaveykov

The Macedonian question was finally brought to light and has shown in the press.

We say at last, because this question is not a new thing. We heard it from some from Macedonia as long as about ten years ago. We first considered the words of those young patriots as a joke and a tease amidst the heat of our not so serious disputes. That is what we thought until a year or two ago, when new conversations with some Macedonians showed us that the problem was not only vain words, but a thought that many would like to put into life. It was both sorrowful and difficult for us to hear such words, but we didn't decide to speak about them through the press because the thing seemed to us a highly delicate one, especially in the conditions in which we were going through. Now this question has been brought to public attention[1] owing to the carelessness of one of our confreres and now, whether we would like to or not, we are already compelled to answer.

We should never have spoken out on this question if it had existed in the domain of the educational textbooks only, because we do not see any harm in the desire of some people to teach their children in their fathers' dialect; on the contrary, we see in this a sign of revival. Elementary education is fruitful only when it is conducted in the language which the children can understand. But the whole problem here is that it has not been chosen a way that would not lead to the separation of the dialects but to their union and agreement. 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 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.

It is only the latter condition that is sufficient to protect us from splitting our poor literature and to make us strong against those who want such a split. But when there are other aims involved as well in the split, aims tending to dismember our still unorganized people, then everybody has the obligation to oppose such evil. It is obvious that some of our Macedonian brothers have such aims, which they hide under the veil of the language and its dialects; that is why we are taking the liberty of saying something about the Macedonian question.

We have many times heard from the Macedonists that they are not Bulgarians but Macedonians, descendants of the Ancient Macedonians, and have always waited to hear some proofs of this, but have never heard them. The Macedonists have never shown us the bases of their attitude. They insist on their Macedonian origin, which they cannot prove in any satisfactory way. We have read in the history that in Macedonia existed a small nation - Macedonians; but nowhere do we find in it neither what were those Macedonians, nor of what tribe is their origin, and the few macedonian words, preserved through some greek writers, completely deny such a possibility. In addition to this, after Macedonia was subdued by the Romans, there is no remembrance of those Macedonians any further. We can find in their areas all kinds of other nations, except for the Macedonians, who solely we don't find. What happened with them and in which nation have they amalgamated themselves, we don't know, since the history doesn't tell us this. We can guess all kinds of things, with the same amount of probability: we can say that Macedonians continued their existence until the present day; we can say that they have dissapeared long time ago. Both things would be equally wrong, since they are not supported by trustworthy testimonies. We can even believe in the opinion that, like ancient Macedonians were Bulgarians, i. e. Slavs. But in every way the descent of the Macedonists from the Ancient Macedonians is among most doubtful things. Their opinion today can only rely on the region where they live, and this is a very weak argument. As the Ancient Macedonians lived in this same region, why should not the present inhabitants be of Macedonian blood? They are real Macedonians, conclude the Macedonists, comforted by their great discovery!

If Macedonia was excluded from the historic changes, such conclusion would maybe have some probability. But we know that this country have been subjected to large changes of her population. After many mixing of her population with new settlers, came, at the end Bulgarians, they have stretched their power far on, and they have created a kingdom in Ohrid, in the homeland of some of the most zelous Macedonists. They have lived in those places for a long time, and they have merged the complete population into themselves. Who can tell us now what kind of blood flows through the veins of the Macedonists? Who can tell us that they are not of bulgarian blood, but of the blood of the old Macedonians? Actually they cannot answer this question without becomming funny and shallow.

We have also heard other argumentation. Some Macedonists distinguish themselves from the Bulgarians upon another basis - they are pure Slavs, while the Bulgarians are Tartars and so on. If we take into consideration what we mentioned before about the historic changes in Macedonia, it won't be too hard to demonstrate that the latest claim is completely ungrounded. When Bulgarians assimilated in themselves, or better yet, when Slavs assimilated in themselves the Bulgarians not only in Macedonia, but also in the other areas of the Balkan peninsula, I don't know why the macedonian mix should be of a separate genus, and the tracian and bulgarian one of a different one. Such reasonings can give only the stupid children, that don't know what is a historic testimony.

In order to give strength to their arbitrary view, the Macedonists point out the difference between the macedonian and upper bulgarian dialects, of which the first is allegedly closer to the Slav language while the latter is allegedly mixed with Tartarisms, etc. We would not have liked to believe in the seriousness of such attitudes, as the reader would not like either, but we had to believe when we saw with what persistence this attitude was defended by the Macedonists. Our words that the difference in the dialects proves nothing, that it is a consequence of historical circumstances and not of a different origin, these words were not of any help. The Macedonists persisted to their standpoints.

In general, the views of the Macedonists have neither maturity nor uniformity. Someone speaks one thing, another speaks something different, which seems to him better. It is desirable to see their doctrine arranged in general form so that we can fully assess its validity and its consequences. While we are waiting for this, we shall state here some of the consequences that would result for our people and the Macedonists by the separation.

As all of the Bulgarians, our macedonian brothers are so uneducated and weak, that the division can not avoid perturbation of the minds and will create enemies. The bigger part of the population always will think and should think not as some of the vehement representatives of the stated opinions about macedonians. Therefore parties with different interests will appear, dissensions will follow and inner weakness, and from them - pressuries from outside and dismemberments. Busy with internal quarrels what they are and what they aren't, our Bulgarians in Macedonia couldn't preserve themselves from outer violations and from hostile scoops from Greecs from south and Serbs - from north.


Then? –Then, if not Bulgarians, then nothing.

If today we have a bulgarian nation, if it became known and earned its place among the other nations in Turkey, it has achieved that only throught union and by demonstrating its significance in number, throught that it will establish itself, through that it will stabilize its position, and protect itself from external attacks. The good position today is earned more by unification, and not by division on peaces that are weak and insignificant. When other times come and when equality is established between all nations, small and big, then the divisions may be justified. The humanity moves toward such forms of social and political life, but it is still very far from it. The freedom of every citizen, of every commune and every area, the right to rule themselves, that is one of the main goals of the human advancement. The whole humanity moves toward the self-rule, and not toward the oppression, but the point is that the self-rule will be achieved only through union in one body. Today all nations recognize this need and are in a hurry to achieve it; are we going to be the only ones to go in the opposite direction? Others unify, although they have been separated for ages, like Pruss and Bavarians, Piemontians and Napolitanians, and we want to separate now, to separate although we are from uniform element and we have been united until now. Isn’t that wise and commendable?

We are convinced that the desire of the Macedonists should have other bases as well, and that there is a confusion about the small inequality between the upper and the macedonian Bulgarians in number and development. Perhaps the Macedonists think that the upper Bulgarians will always be prevalent in public affairs as more numerous and more aware, and the Macedonians will remain second-rate citizens. That is exactly what the following words by the Macedonists mean: We have set ourselves apart from the Greeks, should we now become subjected to others? 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.

As far as the fear of the number of the upper Bulgarians and their earlier awakening is concerned, it is not even worth mentioning, just as the father should not make any difference between his children. If some brothers become aware before the others, it does not mean that they should be privileged.

Our conclusion is that there is no reason for separation and that we should not separate if we love our people and what is good for them.


Published 18th January 1871 in the "Macedonia" newspaper in Constaninople



Taken from:

In Bulgarian: Петко Р. Славейков, "Съчинения", том 7 Публицистика, Издателство "Български писател", София, 1981, "Македонският въпрос", стр. 21-24 (in English: Petko R. Slaveikov, "Sychineniya" - "Works", volume 7 Publitsistika - Publicism, Publishing house "Bylgarski pisatel" - "Bulgarian writer", Sofia, 1981, "Makedonskiyat vypros" - "The Macedonian question", p. 21-24). This edition does not include the last five paragraphs.