Historian Dragi Gjorgiev, Chairman of the North Macedonia Group in the Joint Interdisciplinary Commission on Historical and Educational Issues with Bulgaria, considered in an interview with the TV station “SITEL” that the recent statement of the Prime Minister of the country, Zoran Zaev’s recent decision to delete the offensive term “Bulgarian” from the expression “fascist conqueror” on monuments and in school textbooks is a message to Bulgaria that there should be dialogue in order to achieve historical reconciliation between the two peoples.
“When there is talk about the so-called memory politics of a nation’s past, then in order to make decisions about this memory politics, which usually results in what is written on the monuments, and how public opinion perceives this past, seeing things through the eyes of politics, then a lot of discussions, talks, consensus in public opinion is needed to make a decision on how to present a certain event or person from the past. I do not see this statement by our Prime Minister as a statement that will be implemented immediately and on the basis of which the deletion of some offensive designations from those that have been established so far will begin in the field tomorrow. I see this statement more as an attempt, a signal to the other side that as far as the historical reconciliation between the Macedonian (sic) and Bulgarian people is concerned, there should be a dialogue, all the painful issues between us should be discussed and that this is the solution to achieve reconciliation,” Gjorgiev said.
Responding to the question whether this means forgiveness, without forgetting, Gjorgiev stressed that these are the most appropriate words: “forgiveness, but not forgetting”.
As to whether there is a reaction or a response from the Bulgarian side, Gjorgiev stressed that this is the biggest part of the problem, because so far all the efforts of the Commission and the country’s policy to get some kind of positive response from the Bulgarian side have hit a very solid wall.
“That is why such a statement, such an attempt, I would say, by the Prime Minister to somehow encourage such a dialogue between the two sides has provoked strong reactions in our public opinion, because from the other side we have heard nothing but an open denial of our history, our identity, the Macedonian (sic) language. This is what public opinion reacted to,” Gjorgiev said.
He noted that on this issue there were no formal talks between the members of the two groups in the Commission, but occasionally, in the breaks, this issue happened to be raised. The main problem, he said, “is that in Bulgarian historiography and in the perception of its Macedonian past, the prevailing view is that Macedonia is historically a Bulgarian country”.
“This is also present in school textbooks in Bulgaria and we pointed it out and gave it as an observation, as something that should be changed and modified in school textbooks in Bulgaria. From this follows the position of both Bulgarian historiography and politics that Bulgaria cannot be the conqueror of a country which, according to their view of the past, is historically a Bulgarian country. That is why they saw themselves either as liberators of this territory – Bulgarian in their view – or as administrators. That is why the term conqueror for them is a painful word they cannot accept,” Gjorgiev also noted.
Regarding the current status of the Commission, Gjorgiev said that the team at the Commission received a mandate from the (North Macedonian) government in 2018 and that this mandate has not yet been withdrawn, however from an official legal point of view the Commission is in a state of stagnation due to renewal of agreements that have effectively lasted for four years already./ibna