Skopje Admits Fake Propaganda Figures about 750 000 'Macedonians' in Bulgaria

Politics » DIPLOMACY | September 1, 2011, Thursday // 19:02
Bulgaria: Skopje Admits Fake Propaganda Figures about 750 000 'Macedonians' in Bulgaria Macedonian Foreign Minister Nikola Poposki admitted in Sofia Thursday his institution had no data saying there were 750 000 "ethnic Macedonians" living in Bulgaria. Photo by BGNES

Macedonia's Foreign Ministry does not have data that 750 000 "ethnic Macedonians" live in Bulgaria, and has not provided the press with such figures, Macedonia's top diplomat admitted in Sofia.

Macedonia's Foreign Minister Nikola Poposki has thus refuted a propaganda piece published in August 2011 by Macedonian newspaper Dnevnik stating that some 750 000 "ethnic Macedonians" are living in Bulgaria, according to figures provided from the Foreign Ministry in Skopje.

Poposki, who was in Sofia Thursday on his first visit abroad as Foreign Minister to sign a Cooperation Memorandum with Bulgaria's Foreign Minister Nikolay Mladenov for Macedonia's EU integration, said in plain text his institution had not provided the data cited by the Dnevnik newspaper.

The Macedonian newspaper Dnevnik on Tuesday, August 16, said that there are 750 000 "ethnic Macedonians" in Bulgaria, 700 000 in Greece, 120 000 in Albania, 85 000 in Serbia, 12 000 in Kosovo, 15 000 in Romania, and 315 000 in Turkey.

The statistics traditionally typical of Macedonia's propaganda appeared in an article entitled "Census at the Neighbors Ate Away the Macedonians".

The article did not mention that according to Bulgaria's last census in February 2011 a total of 1 654 people in Bulgaria have declared themselves to be "ethnic Macedonians", and that 1 000 of those have Macedonian passports.

It even cited claims of the so called "political party of Macedonians" in Bulgaria, "OMO Ilinden-Pirin" that the Bulgarian authorities have carried out gigantic manipulations in order to obliterate the existence of an imagined Macedonian minority.

The August propaganda spree of the Macedonian press appears to be in line with Skopje's policies towards Bulgaria in the past 20 years which feature nationalist propaganda moves by Macedoniathat periodically exacerbate the bilateral relations.

Since the early Middle Ages, all the way to the first half of the 20th century, Macedonia and its Slavic population were considered part of the Bulgarian nation not just by Bulgaria but also by its neighbors and the international community. This is why from its National Liberation in 1878 till 1944 Bulgaria waged five wars attempting to unite all of the Bulgarian-populated lands in the Balkans, including Macedonia – after the San Stefano Treaty of March 1878 providing one state for almost all Bulgarian-populated regions was revised three months later by the European Great Powers in the Treaty of Berlin leaving the regions of Thrace and Macedonia out of Bulgaria.

After both World War I and World War II, however, Serbia/Yugoslavia kept control of 40% of the territory of the geographic and historical region of Macedonia, the so called Vardar Macedonia (which in 1991 became the Republic of Macedonia), Greece retained about 50% of the region – the so called Aegean Macedonia, while only 10% of the region – the so called Pirin Macedonia – remained in Bulgaria.

The foundations of the contemporary Macedonian nation were laid in 1944 by Yugoslavia's  communists at a special congress that also proclaimed the creation of a Macedonian language and a Macedonian alphabet designed to differentiate the dialects spoken in the region of Macedonia from the Bulgarian language and to underline the creation of a distinct Macedonian national identity.

The so called question about the perceived Macedonian minority in Bulgaria exists since the late 1940s when the dictators of the Soviet Union and communist YugoslaviaJoseph Stalin and Josip Broz Tito – attempted to arrange the post-World War II order on the Balkans through the creation of a Balkan federation between Bulgaria and Yugoslavia.

One of the provisions of this state engineering project of the two notorious communist dictators was the creation of a Macedonian republic within the future federation. For that to happen, the leadership of communist Bulgaria had to cede Pirin Macedonia to Yugoslavia in exchange for the territories of the so called Western Outlands (the towns of Tsaribrod (Dimitrovgrad) and Bosilegrad where the recognized Bulgarian minority in Serbia lives today).

This provision was accepted unconditionally by the Bulgarian communist leader Georgi Dimitrov who acted under direct orders from Stalin. As a result, in the late 1940s, the Bulgarian Communist Party undertook an unprecedented campaign to force its own population in the Pirin Region (today's Blagoevgrad District in Southwest Bulgaria) to change its Bulgarian nationality and identity into the newly invented Macedonian one, and the official census figures out of the blue recorded that 250 000 Macedonians living in Bulgaria.

The campaign to force the people of the Blagoevgrad District to become "Macedonians" was dropped by the Bulgarian Communist Party after the entire project for a Balkan federation between Bulgaria and Yugoslavia was killed with the falling out between Stalin and Tito in 1948-49 – a rift that had wide repercussions for Europe during the entire Cold War period. This left the population of Southwest Bulgaria – which was harassed by its own government on orders from Moscow – to shake off the imagined ethnic Macedonian identity imposed on it.

Ever since, however, the authorities in Skopje whose legitimacy relies primarily on the doctrine described by the Bulgarian historians as "macedonianism", i.e. the distinct national identity of the Slavic population of the region of Macedonia, have resurfaced claims of "hundreds of thousands of ethnic Macedonians" living in Bulgaria under some sort of "brutal oppression." Macedonian media cite as evidence for such claims statements by the so called ethnic Macedonian party "OMO Ilinden-Pirin", whose members according to publications in the Bulgarian media are paid from Skopje and Belgrade to declare themselves as "Macedonians."

It is unclear how exactly Macedonia's Foreign Ministry decided that there are three-quarters of a million of ethnic Macedonians in Bulgaria, a figure that is 700 times higher than the 1 654 Macedonians found to live in Bulgaria, according to the Bulgarian census. But the latest publication of the Macedonian on the "question" of "ethnic Macedonians" abroad seems to be in line with the recent construction of monuments in Skopje of Alexander the Great and the medieval Bulgarian Tsar Samuil, both of which are deemed to be great Macedonians by the government of Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and his party VMRO-DPMNE – a move that caused anger in Greece, ridicule in Bulgaria, and criticism by the European Commission.

In a comment on the latest figures about the "ethnic Macedonians abroad", the Bulgarian National Radio points out that apparently, according to Skopje, there are more Macedonians living in Bulgaria and Greece than in Macedonia itself where the Slavic population is about 1.3 million, while the rest are ethnic Albanians, Roma, Turks, and others.

The Skopje correspondent of the Bulgarian National Radio reminds that Macedonia itself put off its own census for October 1, 2011, because of a failure to create census committees with the respective representation of ethnic Albanians, which was justified with the holding of early parliamentary elections in the country on June 5. It stresses that the ethnic Albanians in Macedonia insist that the Macedonian census be performed under international control.

Last year Bulgaria's former Diaspora Minister Bozhidar Dimitrov, a notable historian known for his publications on the history of Macedonia and current director of Bulgaria's National History Museum, announced that over 7 000 Macedonians were granted Bulgarian citizenship, and that the figure has seen a staggering increase in the past couple of years, as many Macedonians are, in his words, returning to their "Bulgarian roots."

As of 2010, it is much easier for Macedonians to get Bulgarian citizenship because the Bulgarian authorities no longer ask them to provide a document of Bulgarian origin – which is usually some sort of a church or municipal certificate from the time of their grandparents; instead, for the purposes of granting citizenship, the Bulgarian state has switched to assuming that all Macedonians are of Bulgarian origin.

Unlike Greece, which gets enraged by Macedonia's moves toying with the cultural heritage from the Antiquity period and is tangled with Macedonia in the notorious name dispute, Bulgaria's governments traditionally react to propaganda fits by Skopje with disregard, while the general public in Bulgaria accepts them with ridicule. To the extent that Bulgaria has made any claims towards Macedonia, those have boiled down to the refusal to allow Skopje to hijack Bulgaria's historical heritage from the Middle Ages and the 19th century Revival Period.

Bulgaria was the first sovereign nation to recognize the independence of the Republic of Macedonia in 1992.

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Tags: Macedonian media, Macedonian language, Berlin Treaty, San Stefano Treaty, Skopje, Bozhidar Dimitrov, name dispute, greece, Aegean Macedonia, Pirin Macedonia, Vardar Macedonia, Southwest Bulgaria, Blagoevgrad District, Georgi Dimitrov, USSR, Joseph Stalin, Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, Tito, Josip Broz Tito, Bulgarian Communist Party, Communist Bulgaria, communist regime, Macedonians, macedonia, FYROM, propaganda, Omo Ilinden Pirin, Nikola Poposki, Foreign Minister, Nikolay Mladenov
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