By Nikos Kotzias *
A serious complication has arisen in our region due to the chauvinistic stirring of the Macedonian issue by the radical nationalists of Bulgaria. They are either purely right-wing, like the incumbent Minister of Defense for some other Bulgarian politicians who want to support their election campaign and their personal strategies. “Surprisingly”, some in Athens “admire” the far right in Sofia and demand that Greece follow in their footsteps and submit to their choices! For example, to support the Bulgarian demand that the occupation of then-southern Yugoslavia not be described as a “fascist occupation”. The circles “admiring” the Bulgarian alt-right should let us know if Greece should stop regarding the Bulgarian fascist occupation during the Second World War as an occupation indeed.
I recall that the “Macedonian” issue started off as an intra-Slavic conflict. The dominant (and historically foolish) leaderships in Greece managed to turn it into a conflict between Greece and the Slavo-Macedonians/Yugoslavia. Some publications in Athens, it seems, want to repeat this nonsense.
With the Prespa Agreement, Greece got rid of the problem. An agreement that was literally “envied” by the diplomatic establishment in Sofia. This happened despite the fact that they were the first to sign a “Friendship Pact” with North Macedonia. Today, pro-Turks in Bulgaria believe they have lost part of their “chauvinist narrative” because of the Prespa Agreement. As the second troublemakers in the region, they set two new conditions for the European course of North Macedonia.
The first condition refers to the North Macedonians accepting the fact that they are Bulgarians. They are oblivious to the 20th century ethnogenesis of a new Slavic nation, the Slavo-Macedonians. The latter, following the Prespa Agreement and the constitutional amendments that ensued, have joined a multinational state that creates a new “nation of ethnicities” (such as Spanish), comprising Slavo-Macedonians, Albanians, Vlachs and others. Contrarily to historical developments and facts, Bulgarian chauvinists appear to have no sense of spatio-temporal reality. They still live in the era of the Communist International of the interwar period. They are also out of historical bounds, as Bulgarian fascism, due to the savage occupation of the territory of present-day North Macedonia during the Second World War, led to the final alienation of Bulgaria from the Slavo-Macedonians and provided further impetus to the birth of a new nation. It verily constitutes a historical audacity for some in today’s democratic Bulgaria to invoke without hesitation the arguments of the Bulgarian barbaric fascism against the Slavo-Macedonians. Of course, it is balderdash for some in Athens to endorse them.
Ignoring the historical realities, chauvinism deriving from the dark ages of the Bulgarian occupation seeks for the Slavo-Macedonians to be renamed as Bulgarians. It still lives in the age of hematological-genetic determinations of nations and has yet to come to terms with the fact that, today, nations constitute cultural-political entities with specific rights to their own institutional systems. It has yet to comprehend that the vast majority of Slavo-Macedonians, and even more so any Albanian of North Macedonia or Vlach with a Greek conscience, would never accept to be considered Bulgarians.
The ineptitude of some in Sofia is reinforced by that of the pseudo-Macedonian warriors of Athens, who appear to have forgotten that the real Macedonian warriors fought mainly against Bulgarian dignitarism, while later Greece fought against the Bulgarian occupations, with which a large portion of the front that heralded the Prespa Agreement to be a betrayal actually collaborated. The 4th Army Corps surrendered with all its weapons in Kavala in the middle of the First World War, during which 60,000 Greek citizens were killed in Eastern Macedonia and another 20,000 died in exile in Bulgaria as part of the latter’s attempt to destroy the Greek element from the region.
It is really impressive that once again the “super-patriots” of Athens want to side with the radical Bulgarian chauvinism. To claim together that a new nation should be banned from being accepted as such, but that instead we should all support Bulgarian chauvinism. The latter always supported the creation of a second Bulgarian state, as FYROM hoped to become, and then devoured it. The pseudo-Macedonians of Athens, therefore, instead of projecting the Bulgarian veto, they better tell us whether they support a “Greater Bulgaria” and in fact with Greek consensus, and whether they intend to allow some to re-dream fascist dreams regarding Greek lands that their political faction surrendered twice to then-fascist Bulgaria. They should also illuminate us on whether they wish the airspace of North Macedonia not to be controlled by Greece, as is the case today, but by Bulgaria and -why not- Turkey.
There is, however, another demand of Bulgarian chauvinism supported by the pseudo-Macedonians. They claim that the Slavo-Macedonian constitutes not an independent language, but rather Bulgarian. It is not a South Slavic language, originally composed of elements of Serbian, Bulgarian, Turkish, Vlach and Greek elements, acquiring afterwards its own independent course, but “simply” a Bulgarian dialect. Our Bulgarian friends’ conceptions are once again outdated. Languages and nations are regenerated and differentiated over time. No one today disputes that the Austrian nation represents a separate nation from the German one, or that the Scandinavian nations (Denmark, Sweden and Norway) now have three different languages and roots, despite their common Scandinavian origin; something that applies almost identically to the Slavic languages. We all know that US books translated into European languages, when referring to the prototype, no longer use the term “English” but rather “American”, because more variants and differences are gradually engendered into each of these two languages. Moreover, the American nation of the US citizens cannot be considered a synonym for that of the British, or even the English. The same applies to New Zealanders, Australians or even Canadians.
The point is that some in Bulgaria, with a medieval-age micromegalistic syndrom, seek to cause new issues in the Balkans and the European course of North Macedonia. Life issues, as well as issues resolved through and/or scientific research and consultation, cannot be imposed by presidential decrees and acts of peaceful foreign policy.
The issue is also that some on the Greek side, instead of embracing North Macedonia, resisting the Greater Bulgarian chauvinism that has so gravely cost both the Greek people and the Greek land, blinded by their anti-Prespa abhorrence, endorse a policy that our Macedonian fighters politically and militarily abolished 120 years ago. /ibna
* Nikos Kotzias is an Emeritus Professor of International Relations-Foreign Policy, former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Member of the PRATTO Movement and author.