Political views on the Macedonian language: Wikis


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Republic of Macedonia

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The existence and distinctiveness of the Macedonian language is disputed among the politicians, linguists and common people from the neighboring countries. Macedonian dialects are indeed a part of dialectal continuum which stretches from Croatian, Bosnian and Serbian Shtokavian dialect through Torlakian on the northwest, to western and eastern Bulgarian dialects on the East, and the Macedonian language, like Bulgarian, Serbian, Croatian and Bosnian, is a standardized form of (some of) these dialects.


Macedonian view

According to the Macedonian view, now prevalent and official in the books in Republic of Macedonia, Macedonian was the first official language of the Slavs, thanks to the St. Cyril and St. Methodius's introduction of Slavic literacy language through the Glagolitic script, that was based on Southern Macedonian dialect from the neighbourhood of Thessaloniki, the home of the two saints.[1] Later on, Macedonia fell under the rule of Bulgarians, and the Byzantines regarded all Slavic Macedonians as Bulgarians. According to a minority view, supported in the Republic of Macedonia, Samuil's realm in the early Middle Ages was allegedly the first Macedonian Slavic state. However, Krste Misirkov, who allegedly set the principles of the Macedonian literary language in the late 19th century, stated: "We speak a Bulgarian language and we believed with Bulgaria is our strong power."[2]

Bulgarian view

A page from Slavonic-Bulgarian History, written in 1762 by Macedonia-born Saint Paisius of Hilendar.

Although Bulgaria was the first country to recognize the independence of the Republic of Macedonia, most of its academics, as well as the general public, regard the language spoken there as a form of Bulgarian.[3] However after years of diplomatic impasse caused by an academic dispute, in 1999 the government in Sofia solved the problem with the Macedonian Language under the formula: "the official language of the country (Republic of Macedonia) in accordance with its constitution".[1]

Most Bulgarian linguists consider the Slavic dialects spoken in the region of Macedonia as a part of the Bulgarian diasystem.[2][3] Numerous shared features of these dialects with Bulgarian are cited as proof.[4] Bulgarian scholars also claim that the overwhelming majority of the Macedonian population had no conscience of a Macedonian language separate from Bulgarian prior to 1945. Russian scholars cite the early references to the language in Slavic literature from the middle of 10th century to the end of 19th century as "bulgarski" or "bolgarski" as proof of that claim.[5] From that, the conclusion is drawn that modern standard Macedonian is not a language separate from Bulgarian either but just another written "norm" based on a set of Bulgarian dialects. See dialect and dialect continuum to assess the validity of these arguments. Moreover, Bulgarian linguists assert that the Macedonian and Yugoslav linguists who were involved in codifying the new language artificially introduced differences from literary Bulgarian to bring it closer to Serbian.[6]. They are also said to have resorted to falsifications and deliberate misinterpretations of history and documents in order to further the claim that there was a consciousness of a separate Macedonian ethnicity before 1944.[7] Part of Bulgarian scholars and people hold the view that Macedonian is one of three “norms” of the Bulgarian language, the other two being standard Bulgarian and the language of the Banat Bulgarians. This formulation was detailed in 1978 in a document of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences entitled “The Unity of the Bulgarian Language Today and in the Past”.[4] Although Bulgaria was the first country to recognize the independence of the Republic of Macedonia, it has refused to recognise the existence of a separate Macedonian ethnicity and a separate Macedonian language. This was a major obstacle to the development of diplomatic relations between the two countries until a compromise solution was worked out in 1999.


Historical overview

Marko Teodorrovich's Primer, 1792
Ioakim Karchovski's vernacular book, 1814
Konikovo Gospel, 1852
Kulakia Gospel, 1863

Bulgarian ethnos in Macedonia existed long before the earliest articulations of the idea that Macedonian Slavs might form a separate ethnic group from the Bulgarians in Danubian Bulgaria and Thrace. Throughout the period of Ottoman rule, the Slav-speaking people of the geographic regions of Moesia, Thrace and Macedonia referred to their language as Bulgarian and called themselves Bulgarians.[5][6] For instance, the Serbian researcher St. Verković who was a long term teacher in Macedonia, sent by the Serbian government with special assimilatory mission wrote in the preface of his collection of Bulgarian folk songs: "I named these songs Bulgarian, and not Slavic because today when you ask any Macedonian Slav: Who are you? he immediately answers: I am Bulgarian and call my language Bulgarian ... ."[7] The name "Bulgarian" for various Macedonian dialects can be seen from early vernacular texts such as the four-language dictionary of Daniil of Moschopole, the early works of Kiril Pejchinovich and Ioakim Kurchovski and some vernacular gospels written in the Greek alphabet. These written works influenced by or completely written in the Bulgarian vernacular were registered in Macedonia in the 18th and beginning of the 19th century and their authors referred to their language as Bulgarian.[8] The first samples of Bulgarian speech and the first grammar of modern Bulgarian language were written by the leading Serbian literator Vuk Karadjić on the basis of the Macedonian Razlog dialect.[9] In those early years the re-emerging Bulgarian written language was still heavily influenced by Church Slavonic forms so dialectical differences were not very prominent between the Eastern and Western regions. Indeed, in those early years many Bulgarian activists sometimes even communicated in Greek in their writing.

When the Bulgarian national movement got under way in the second quarter of the 19th century some cities in Macedonia were among the first to demand education in Bulgarian and Bulgarian-speaking clerics for their churches.[10] By the 1860’s however, it was clear that the Central Balkan regions of Bulgaria were assuming leadership in linguistic and literary affairs. This was to a large extent due to the fact that the affluent towns on both sides of the Central Balkan range were able to produce more intellectuals educated in Europe than the relatively more backward other Bulgarian regions. Consequently, when the idea that the vernacular rather than Church Slavonic should be represented in the written language gained preponderance, it was the dialects of the Central Balkan region between Veliko Tarnovo and Plovdiv that were most represented.[8].

Some prominent Bulgarian educators from Macedonia like Parteniy Zografski and Kuzman Shapkarev called for a stronger representation of Macedonian dialects in the Bulgarian literary language but their advice was not heeded at the time and sometimes met with hostility.[11].In the article The Macedonian Question by Petko Rachev Slaveykov, published on 18th January 1871 in the Makedoniya (newspaper) in Constantinople, Macedonism was criticized, his adherents were named Macedonists, and this is the earliest surviving indirect reference to it, although Slaveykov never used the word Macedonism.The term's first recorded use is from 1887 by Stojan Novakovic to describe Macedonism as a potential ally for the Serbian strategy to expand its territory toward Macedonia, whose population was regarded by almost all neutral sources as Bulgarian at the time. The consternation of certain Macedonians with what they saw as the domineering attitude of Northern Bulgarians towards their vernacular was later deftly exploited by the Serbian state, which had begun to fear the rise of Bulgarian nationalism in Macedonia.

Up until 1912/18 it was the standard Bulgarian language that most Macedonians learned (and taught) in the Exarchate schools. All activists and leaders of the Macedonian movement, including those of the left, used standard Bulgarian in documents, press publications, correspondence and memoirs and nothing indicates they viewed it as a foreign language. [12] This is characteristic even of the members of IMRO (United) well into the 1920’s and 1930’s, when the idea of a distinct Macedonian nation was taking shape.[13]

From the 1930s onwards the Bulgarian Communist Party and the Comintern sought to foster a separate Macedonian nationality as a means of achieving autonomy for Macedonia within a Balkan federation. Consequently it was Bulgarian-educated Macedonians who were the first to develop a distinct Macedonian language, culture and literature.[14][15] When Socialist Macedonia was formed as part of Federal Yugoslavia, these Bulgarian-trained cadres got into a conflict over the language with the more Serbian-leaning activists, who had been working within the Yugoslav Communist Party. Since the latter held most of the political power, they managed to impose their views on the direction the new language was to follow, much to the dismay of the former group. [16]

After 1944 the communist-dominated government sought to create a Bulgarian-Yugoslav federation (see Balkan Communist Federation) and part of this entailed giving "cultural autonomy" to the Pirin region. Consequently, Bulgarian communists recognised the Macedonian language as distinct from Bulgarian.[17]. After 1948, the date of the Tito-Stalin split, those plans were abandoned. This date also coincided with the first claims of Bulgarian linguists as to the Serbianisation of the Macedonian language.[18] Officially Bulgaria continued to support the idea of a Macedonian unification and a Macedonian nation but within the framework of a Balkan Federation and not within Yugoslavia.[19] However, a reversal in the Macedonisation policy was already announced in the secret April plenum of the BCP in 1956 and openly proclaimed in the plenum of 1963. 1958 was the first time that a "serious challenge" to the Macedonian position was launched by Bulgaria.[20] These developments led to violent polemics between Yugoslav and Bulgarian scholars and sometimes reflected on the bilateral relations of the two countries.[21]

Claims of Serbianisation

Although the original aim of the codifiers of Macedonian was to distance it from both Bulgarian and Serbian, Bulgarians today view the standard Macedonian language as heavily Serbianised, especially with regards to its vocabulary.[22] Bulgarian scholars such as Kosta Tsrnushanov claim there are several ways in which standard Macedonian was influenced by Serbian.[23]

Serbian view

Serbia officially recognises the Macedonian Language as separate language to Bulgarian. In the 2002 census c.26,000 people declared themselves as Macedonians.[24]

Greek view

From the Greek point of view, there can be only one meaning for the term Macedonia, and that is in reference to ancient Macedon and the modern Greek region of Macedonia.[9] It follows that the term cannot properly be used for a Slavic language.[10] Greece similarly rejects the name "Republic of Macedonia", seeing it as an implicit territorial claim on the whole of the region.

Books have been published in Greece which purport to expose the artificial character of the Macedonian language.[11] Some Greeks believe that the Slavic dialects spoken in Greek Macedonia are actually a mixture of Slavic and Greek [12] (see Slavic language (Greece)).

Other views

In the word of Horace Lunt, a Harvard professor, who wrote the first English language grammar of the Macedonian language in the early 1950s, "Bulgarian scholars, who argue that the concept of a Macedonian language was unknown before World War II, or who continue to claim that a Macedonian language does not exist look not only dishonest, but silly, while Greek scholars who make similar claims are displaying arrogant ignorance of their Slavic neighbours"; (Lunt 1984:110, 120). Loring Danforth, professor of Anthropology at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, addresses the stance of linguists, who attribute the origin of the Macedonian language to their will, stressing that all languages in the standardisation process have a certain political and historical context to them and the fact that Macedonian language had a political context in which it was standardised doesn't mean it's not a language.[25] Italian linguist Vittore Pisani stated "the Macedonian language is actually an artifact produced for primarily political reasons". [13] Venko Markovski, writer, poet and Communist politician from Macedonia, who in 1945 participated in the Commission for the Creation of the Macedonian Alphabet and once wrote in the Macedonian language and published what was the first contemporary book written in standardized Macedonian, stated in an interview for Bulgarian National Television only seven days prior to his death, that ethnic Macedonians and the Macedonian language do not exist and that they were a result of Comintern manipulation. [26] Austrian linguist Otto Kronsteiner, states that the Macedonian linguists artificially introduced differences from the literary Bulgarian language to bring Macedonian closer to Serbian, jesting that the Macedonian language is a Bulgarian one, but written on a Serbian typewriter.[27]


  1. ^ 1999/02/22 23:50 Bulgaria Recognises Macedonian Language
  2. ^ Institute of Bulgarian Language (1978) (in Bulgarian). Единството на българския език в миналото и днес. Sofia: Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. p. 4. OCLC 6430481.  
  3. ^ Стойков (Stoykov), Стойко (2002) [1962] (in Bulgarian). Българска диалектология (Bulgarian dialectology). София: Акад. изд. "Проф. Марин Дринов". ISBN 9544308466. OCLC 53429452. http://www.promacedonia.org/jchorb/st/index.htm.  
  4. ^ Mahon, M. (1998) "The Macedonian question in Bulgaria" in Nations and Nationalism. Vol. 4, No. 3, pp. 389-407.
  5. ^ Verković, St. Narodne pesme makedonski bugara (Folk Songs of the Macedonian Bulgarians). Beograd, 1860.
  6. ^ Miladinov, D. and Miladinov, K. Bulgarian Folk Songs (Български народни песни). Zagreb, 1861.
  7. ^ "Но ја сам ове песме назвао бугарскима, а не словенскима, због тога, јер данас кад би когод македонског Славенина запитао: што си ти? с места би му отговорно: я сам болгарин, а свој језик зову болгарским. . .", p. 13
  8. ^ Prof. Dr. Gustav Weigand, ETHNOGRAPHIE VON MAKEDONIEN, Geschichtlich-nationaler, spraechlich-statistischer Teil, Leipzig, Friedrich Brandstetter, 1924.
  9. ^ Vuk Karadjić. Dodatak k sanktpeterburgskim sravniteljnim rječnicima sviju jezika i narječja sa osobitim ogledom Bugarskog језика. Vienna, 1822.
  10. ^ F. A. K. Yasamee "NATIONALITY IN THE BALKANS: THE CASE OF THE MACEDONIANS" in Balkans: A Mirror of the New World Order, Istanbul: EREN, 1995; pp. 121-132.
  11. ^ Струкова, К. П. Общественно-политическое развитие Македонии в 50-70-е гг XIX века, Российская Акедемия наук, Москва 2004, стр. 85-136. ISBN 5-7576-0163-9
  12. ^ Как пишеха народните будители и герои, Иван Михайлов
  13. ^ Димитър Влахов Борбите на македонския народ за освобождение, Библиотека Балканска Федерация, № 1, Виена; [[Dimitar Vlahov, "The liberation struggle of the Macedonian people"
  14. ^ Доц. д-р Петър Галчин "МАКЕДОНСКИ ЛИТЕРАТУРЕН КРЪЖОК (1938–1941 г.)" ,Македонски Преглед, София, бр. 1 & 2, 2002
  15. ^ Юлия Митева, "Идеята за езика в Македонския литературен кръжок - естетически и идеологически аспекти"
  16. ^ Palmer, S. and R. King, Yugoslav Communism and the Macedonian Question, Archon Books, 1971, p. 137. ISBN 0-208-00821-7
  17. ^ Mahon, M. (1998) "The Macedonian question in Bulgaria" in Nations and Nationalism. Vol. 4, No. 3, pp. 389-407
  18. ^ Friedman, V. (1998) "The implementation of standard Macedonian: problems and results" in International Journal of the Sociology of Language. Issue 131. pp. 31-57
  19. ^ Palmer and King, p.126
  20. ^ Ibid., p. 163.
  21. ^ Mahon. pp. 389-407.
  22. ^ Europe since 1945: an encyclopedia, Author Bernard A. Cook, Publisher Taylor & Francis, 2001, ISBN 0815340583, p 187.
  23. ^ Сърбизиране на македонския казионен литературен език, сп. Македонски преглед, година XIV, 1991, кн. 1, Коста Църнушанов.
  24. ^ SN31
  25. ^ Danforth, Loring (April 12 2008.). "Macedonia and the language of nationalism" (in English) (radio debate). Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). http://www.abc.net.au/rn/linguafranca/stories/2008/2214064.htm. Retrieved Nov. 8 2008..  
  27. ^ Der Zerfall Jugoslawiens und die Zukunft der makedonischen Literatursprache: Der späte Fall von Glottotomie? Autor Kronsteiner, Otto, Herausgeber Schriftenreihe Die slawischen Sprachen, Erscheinungsjahr 1992, Seiten 142-171.
  1. ^  Encyclopædia Britannica - Old Church Slavonic language
  2. ^  Mahon, M. (1998) "The Macedonian question in Bulgaria" in Nations and Nationalism. Vol. 4, No. 3, pp. 389–407.
  3. ^  "Единството на българския език в миналото и днес", Български език, XXVIII, 1978.
  4. ^  Струкова, К. П. Общественно-политическое развитие Македонии в 50-70-е гг XIX века, Российская Академия наук, Москва 2004, стр. 85-136. ISBN 5-7576-0163-9
  5. ^  Otto Kronsteiner, The Fathering of the Macedonian Literary Language
  7. ^  Коста Църнушанов, Македонизмът и съпротивата на Македония срещу него, Унив. изд. "Св. Климент Охридски", София, 1992
  8. ^  Vitković,G. "Glasnik Srpskog učenog društva" (Serbian Academy Herald"),67,1887, pp.128; pp.131
  9. ^  Danforth, L. (1997) The Macedonian Conflict: Ethnic Nationalism in a Transnational World (Princeton : Princeton University Press) ISBN 0-691-04356-6
  10. ^  Floudas, D. Pardon? A Conflict for a Name? FYROM'S Dispute With Greece Revisited (available online here)
  11. ^  Roudometof, V. (1996) "Nationalism and Identity Politics in the Balkans: Greece and the Macedonian Question" in Journal of Modern Greek Studies Vol. 14, pp. 253–302.
  12. ^  Pisani, V. "Il Macedonico, Paideia, Rivista Letteraria di informazione bibliografica", vol. 12, p. 250, 1957
  13. ^  Misirkov, K. "On the Macedonian Matters", Sofia 1903

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