In the last two weeks, the Bulgarian public has been widely engaged in the topic of the Ilinden-Preobrazhensko uprising and another batch of Macedonian claims to it. The topic is so sensitive that it overshadowed the celebrations of one of the most tragic and glorious events in Bulgarian history. There can be no doubt that the uprising that broke out in the hottest days during one of the hottest periods in Balkan history was Bulgarian. This is proven in a very simple way.
The organization responsible for the uprising was called VMORO (Internal Macedonian-Edirne Revolutionary Organization) and the uprising organized by it broke out simultaneously in Thrace and Macedonia. The only other people in the Balkans who could claim that by 1903 they could engage large masses of the population of Thrace and Macedonia for a common uprising was the Turks. Obviously, the Turks do not claim that the uprising is theirs, so this is dropped and only the Bulgarians remain. The Greeks had their diaspora in both Macedonia and Thrace, but especially in Macedonia their positions by 1903 were rather insignificant, while in Thrace the Greek population coexisted relatively peacefully with the Turks. There can be no question of Serbs in Thrace. The Macedonian question remains open.
The logical and natural Bulgarian reaction to the Macedonian claims to a historical past is neglect. This reaction is understandable, but also too arrogant in its extreme. Not because it is contrary to historical reality, but because in our disregard, we Bulgarians do not realize how many people are willing to hear and believe in the Macedonian point of view.
The scientific circles in Europe are more and more favorable to the Macedonian position – that after 1856, a unique national identity gradually began to take shape in Macedonia, which began to emancipate itself from the existing Serbian, Bulgarian and Greek national ideas.
The lack of an adequate reaction on the part of the professional Bulgarian historiography is the most serious shortcoming of the Bulgarian position. There are, of course, studies, but they are written mainly in Bulgarian and do not receive any publicity in the world scientific circles. Adequate and modern research in English, French or German is practically absent, namely the languages in which our scientific circles must work in order for our voice to be heard. Conversely, Macedonian historiography invests solid resources in writing historical books of dubious value, but arguably far more linguistically accessible.
The lack of a firm and unequivocal political position on the part of the Bulgarian authorities is also a factor supporting the Macedonian position. Prime Minister Borissov’s words that during the negotiations with Skopje history should be left to historians for after the agreement, only swept the problems under the rug.
It is important here to distinguish two important trends in the attitude of the Bulgarian population. The Bulgarians make a clear distinction between our natural historical claims regarding the heritage and past of our people on the one hand and the purely territorial claims, considered by many people to be an anachronism on the other. Since joining NATO, Bulgaria has officially renounced territorial claims to its neighbors, so this issue has not been on the agenda for more than a decade. However, the claim to the historical past of Macedonia as an integral part of the Bulgarian land cannot and should not be reproduced.
If Bulgaria could also allow a compromise and allow to talk about the gradual formation of a Macedonian identity after the end of the First World War, it is inconceivable to consider all the events before 1918 as independent processes of a naturally forming, new national identity. .
Needless to explain to the readers here that people like Dame Gruev and Gotse Delchev had a strong Bulgarian national identity and that any projects for an autonomous Macedonia by the IMRO are only a stage similar to the East Rumelia, to the accession of the lands between Struma and Ohrid to Bulgaria. In fact, the autonomy of Macedonia on the Rumelia model was discussed in the early twentieth century, but for the Great Powers and especially Russia and Austria-Hungary, it is clear that such a step could destabilize the Balkans in view of the growing claims of Serbs and Greeks. and the nascent Albanian national movement and, of course, the Ottoman position. It is of paramount importance for Austria-Hungary not to allow Orthodox Christians to come together under the auspices of Russia. Vienna will work in this direction until the very beginning of the First World War. Russia itself cannot afford to support the interests of Bulgaria, Serbia or Greece, as this means worsening its own position in Southeast Europe. St. Petersburg is trying to be an arbiter of the Orthodox Christians, which turns out to be an impossible task for the Northern Empire, which allows its own foreign policy hesitation to become another factor in the discord between Greeks, Serbs and Bulgarians.
The Bulgarian position is also extremely uncertain. Until 1900, the governments of Stefan Stambolov and Konstantin Stoilov preferred to work in sync with the Ottoman authorities to impose Bulgarian cultural supremacy in Macedonia by renewing the school network and appointing Bulgarian bishops in most dioceses. This, as well as the problems between the Sofia-supervised Macedonian-Edirne Committee (IOC) and the IMRO, further create problems in creating an adequate and targeted concept for resolving the Macedonian issue.
It is significant that until 1904 Bulgaria did not have a military action plan for war with the Ottoman Empire, especially in the context of a possible uprising in Macedonia and Thrace, of which Sofia was well aware. When the Ilinden-Preobrazhensk uprising broke out, the Bulgarian army remained in place. Unfortunately, the population of Macedonia does not forget this.
There is also a precedent to refute the Bulgarian position – in 1897, Greece declared, albeit completely unprepared, war of the Ottoman Empire as soon as Fr. Crete rebels. Yes, the Greeks lost the war, but among the Cretans there is no doubt that their cause is the cause of the continental Greeks. The bitterness that remains among the activists of both the IMRO (IMRO after 1919) and the IOC predetermines the rather severe confrontations that arise between the two organizations and the authorities in Sofia. As people well know, at some point both Macedonian organizations will be banned and declared illegal. Separately, after 1908, in the IMRO itself began to appear the so-called. “Leftist tendencies”, guided by the principles of the International, which underlie the socialist movements, preach the idea of creating a Balkan federation,
It is on the basis of such limited ideas that contemporary Macedonian historiography builds its theses on a wide-ranging movement to create a Macedonian national identity – an indisputably exaggerated and ridiculous concept. There can be no doubt that without the active work of Serbia after 1913, any ideas of Balkan federalism among Macedonian Bulgarians would quickly lose any adequacy. In fact, for Serbs, the principle of the Balkan federation is a cornerstone of their national idea, formulated in Iliya Garashanin’s Drawing.in the middle of the XIX century. It was on this federal idea that the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes would later be created, in which the assimilation of Montenegro, Croatia, Bosnia, Slovenia and Macedonia would be sought, especially after the formation of Yugoslavia in 1929.
There is no and cannot be any doubt that the Ilinden-Preobrazhensko uprising is the supreme manifestation of the Bulgarian aspiration for freedom and independence in Thrace and Macedonia. There is no and cannot be any doubt that the activists of VMORO and VMOK are people with a strong Bulgarian national self-consciousness, for whom the future of Macedonia and Thrace is within the borders of Bulgaria. Also, there is no and cannot be any doubt that the current claims of Macedonian historiography are a cheap falsification of our history, which are flourishing due to the insufficiently adequate political and scientific-historical reaction on the part of Bulgaria.
Since 1903, we Bulgarians have paid tribute to our compatriots in Macedonia. A tribute we could not pay in 1903, 1912, 1915 or 1941. It is now 2018. Talking about Macedonia’s physical accession to Bulgaria is a dangerous political chimera that has been cleverly used to manipulate voters over the years. The Bulgarian people can and must seek the real struggle for Macedonia – the struggle to preserve and promote the true history of our people and to protect the memory of our ancestors who gave their lives and deeds in the name of an ideal for a free and united Bulgaria. In this sense, the attitude of the Bulgarians towards Macedonia today cannot and should not be arrogant and contemptuous. On the contrary, it must be sharp, firm, factual and definite.