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Slavic-speakers of Greek Macedonia
Total population
Greece: 200,000+
Diaspora: 150,000+
Regions with significant populations
Florina, Edessa, Kastoria, Thessaloniki, Serres, Drama[1]
Greece Greece 50,000 - 250,000 (est.) [1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12]
Bulgaria Bulgaria descendants of 92,000 to 120,000(est.) refugees from Greece (1913-1950) [13][14] [15]
Australia Australia 81,745 (2006 census) - 90,000 (est.) descendants of migrants from the region of Macedonia. [16][17]
 Macedonia 50,000 (incl. descendants) - 70,000 (est.) [18]
 Canada 26,000 (est.) [19]
 United States 30,000 (est.) [19][20]
Flag of Serbia.svg Vojvodina (Serbia) 7,500 (est.)

Slavic dialects of Greece (Macedonian, Bulgarian)


Eastern Orthodox Church

Slavic-speakers are a linguistic minority population in Greek Macedonia who are mostly concentrated in certain parts of the peripheries of West and Central Macedonia, adjacent to the territory of the Republic of Macedonia. A smaller group exists in East Macedonia adjacent to the territory of Bulgaria.[21] They have also formed their own emigrant communities in the neighbouring countries, as well as further abroad.


Ethnic and linguistic affiliations

Members of this group have had a number of conflicting ethnic identifications.

Predominantly identified as Macedonian Bulgarians until the early 1940s,[22][23] since the formation of the Macedonian national many of the migrant population in the diaspora (Australia, America and Canada) have a strong Macedonian identity and have followed the consolidation of the Macedonian ethnicity.[24]

However, those who remain in Greece, now mainly identify nationally as ethnic Greeks,[25][26] although, it should be noted, that the Macedonian region is very ethnically diverse (including Greeks, Albanians, Aromanians, Pontics, European Turks and Slavs) and the ethnic and cultural difference between Bulgarians and Greeks is slim.

The second group in today's Greece is made up of those who seem to reject any national identity, but have distinct regional ethnic identity, which they may call “indigenous”, "dopia", or "Slavomacedonian",[27] and the smallest group is made up of those who have a clear ethnic Macedonian national identity.[28] They speak East South Slavic dialects that can be linguistically classified as either Macedonian or Bulgarian,[29] but which are locally often referred to simply as "Slavic" or "'the local language". Today all speakers are also bilingual in Greek.

A crucial element of that controversy is the very name Macedonian, as it is also used by a much more numerous group of people with a Greek national identity to indicate their regional identity. The term "Aegean Macedonians" (Macedonian: Егејски Македонци, Egejski Makedonci) is associated with those parts of the population that have an ethnic Macedonian identity. Speakers who identify as Greeks or have distinct regional ethnic identity, often speak of themselves simply as "locals" (Greek: Dopii), to distinguish themselves from native Greek-speaking settlers who entered the area in the 1920s and after.

Slavic speakers will also use the term "Macedonians" or "Slavomacedonians", though in a regional rather than an ethnic sense. People of Greek persuasion are sometimes called by the pejorative term "Grecomans" by the other side. Greek sources, which usually avoid the identification of the group with the nation of the Republic of Macedonia, and also reject the use of the name "Macedonian" for the latter, will most often refer only to so called "Slavophones" or "Slavophone Greeks".

"Slavic-speakers" or "Slavophones" is also used as a cover term for people across the different ethnic orientations. The exact number of the linguistic minority remaining in Greece today, together with its members' choice of ethnic identification, is difficult to ascertain; most maximum estimates range around 180,000-200,000 with those of an ethnic Macedonian national conscienceness numbering possibly 10,000 to 30,000.[30]


Principal areas with presence of Slavic speakers in Greece (pink & purple), along with other minority language communities. Greek is today spoken as the dominant language throughout the country.[31]

The Slavs took advantage of the desolation left by the nomadic tribes and in the 6th century settled the Balkan Peninsula. Aided by the Avars and the Bulgars the Slavic tribes started in the 6th century a gradual invasion into the Byzantine lands.

They invaded Macedonia and reached as far south as Thessaly and the Peloponnese, settling in isolated regions that were called by the Byzantines Sclavinias, until they were gradually pacified.

At the beginning of the 9th century, the Slavic kingdom of Bulgaria conquered Northern Byzantine lands, including most of Macedonia. Those regions remained under Bulgarian rule for two centuries, until conquest of Bulgaria by the Byzantine Emperor of the Macedonian dynasty Basil II in 1018.

In the 13th and the 14th century, Macedonia was contested by the Byzantine Empire, the Latin Empire, Bulgaria and Serbia but the frequent shift of borders did not result in any major population changes. In 1338, it was conquered by the Serbian Empire, but after the Battle of Maritsa in 1371 most of the Macedonian Serbian lords would accept supreme Ottoman rule.

During the Middle Ages Slavs in South Macedonia were mostly defined as Bulgarians,[32][33] and this continued also during 16th and 17th centuries by Ottoman historians and travellers like Hoca Sadeddin Efendi, Mustafa Selaniki, Hadji Khalfa and Evliya Celebi. Nevertheless, most of the Slavic-speakers had not formed a national identity in modern sense and were instead identified through its religious affiliations.

Some Slavic-speakers have also converted to Islam. This conversion appears to has been gradual and voluntary process. Economic and social gain was an incentive to become a Muslim. Muslims also enjoyed some legal privileges.

Nevertheless the rise of European nationalism in the 18th century led to the expansion of the Hellenic idea in Macedonia and under the influence of the Greek schools and the Patriarchate of Constantinople, and part from the urban Christian population of Slavic origin started to view itself more as Greek.

In the Bulgarian Archbishopric of Ohrid the Slavonic liturgy was preserved on the lower levels until its abolition in 1767. This led to the first literary work in vernicular modern Bulgarian, History of Slav-Bulgarians in 1762. Its author was a Macedonia born monk Paisius of Hilendar, who wrote it in the Bulgarian Orthodox Zograf Monastery, on Mount Athos.

Nevertheless it took almost a century for the Bulgarian idea to regain ascendancy in the region. Paisius was the first ardent call for a national awakening and urged his compatriots to throw off the subjugation to the Greek language and culture. The example of Paissiy was followed also by other Bulgarian awakeners in 18th century Macedonia.

The Macedonian Bulgarians took active part in the long struggle for independent Bulgarian Patriarchate and Bulgarian schools during the 19th century. The foundation of the Bulgarian Exarchate (1870) aimed specifically at differentiating the Bulgarian from the Greek population on an ethnic and linguistic basis, hence providing the conditions for the open assertion of a Bulgarian national identity.[34]

On the other hand the Internal Macedonian-Adrianople Revolutionary Organization (IMARO) was founded in 1893 in Ottoman Thessaloniki by several Bulgarian Exarchate teachers and professionals who sought to create a militant movement dedicated to the autonomy of Macedonia and Thrace within the Ottoman Empire. Many Bulgarian exarchists participated in the Ilinden Uprising in 1903 with hope of liberation from the Porte.

From 1900 onwards, the danger of Bulgarian control had upset the Greeks. The Bishop of Kastoria, Germanos Karavangelis, realised that it was time to act in a more efficient way and started organising Greek opposition. Germanos animated the Greek population against the IMORO and formed committees to promote the Greek interests.

Taking advantage of the internal political and personal disputes in IMORO, Karavangelis succeeded to organize guerrilla groups. Fierce conflicts between the Greeks and Bulgarians started in the area of Kastoria, in the Giannitsa Lake and elsewhere; both parties committed cruel crimes. These are examples of Pro-Greek songs in slavic dialect of Giannitsa of that era:

a) One honouring the Greek guerilla fights:

Bok da zivejat (God give life)
Gartsi adarti (to the Greek andartes)
sto rasi paje (who destroyed)
Dzolivata tseta (Dzole's gang).

b) One honouring Tellos Agras' death:

Nemas majka, zlatno tsetno, da ta plaka, (Don't you have mother, sweet child, to cry for you,)
nemas sestra, da ta zalja? (don't you have sister, to mourn for you?)
Kakva izlazaja (How did they cheat on you?)
Kakva donisea da va ubesat na urehut? (How did they brought you here and hanged you in the walnut tree?)
Da va donsat na tsuzdi mestu, (To bring you in a foreign place,)
tsuzdi majki da plakat (foreign mothers to cry for you,)
tsujdzi sestri da va redat (foreign sisters to bewail for you.)[35]

Both guerilla groups had also to confront the Turkish army. These conflicts ended after the revolution of "Young Turks" in 1908, as they promised to respect all ethnicities and religions and generally to provide a constitution.

After the Balkan Wars in 1913, Greece took control of southern Macedonia and began an official policy of forced assimilation which included the settlement of Greeks from other provinces into southern Macedonia, as well as the linguistic and cultural Hellenization of Slav speakers.[36] which continued even after World War I.[37] The Greeks expelled Exarchist churchmen and teachers and closed Bulgarian schools and churches. Bulgarian language (including the Macedonian dialects) was prohibited, and its surreptitious use, whenever detected, was ridiculed or punished.[38]

Bulgaria's entry into World War I on the side of the Central Powers signified a dramatic shift in the way European public opinion viewed the Bulgarian population of Macedonia. The ultimate victory of the Allies in 1918 led to the victory of the vision of the Slavic population of Macedonia as an amorphous mass, without a developed national consciousness.

Within Greece, the ejection of the Bulgarian church, the closure of Bulgarian schools, and the banning of publication in Bulgarian language, together with the expulsion or flight to Bulgaria of a large proportion of the Macedonian Bulgarian intelligentsia, served as the prelude to campaigns of forcible cultural and linguistic assimilation.

The remaining Macedonian Bulgarians were clasified as "Slavophones".[39] After the Ilinden Uprising, the Balkan Wars and especially after the First World War more than 100,000 Bulgarians from Aegean Macedonia moved to Bulgaria.

There was agreement in 1919 between Bulgaria and Greece which provided opportunities to expatriate the Bulgarians from Greece.[40] Until the Greco-Turkish War (1919–1922) and the Population exchange between Greece and Turkey in 1923 there were also some Pomak communities in the region.[41]

Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO)

IMRO revolutionaries from Kastoria
Tane Nikolov's IMARO band from Xanthi-Drama area.
Refugee children from Gorno Brodi, Serres resettled in Peshtera after the Second Balkan War, 1913

During the Balkan Wars IMRO members joined the Macedonian-Adrianopolitan Volunteer Corps and fought with the Bulgarian Army. Others with their bands assisted the Bulgarian army with its advance and still others penetrated as far as the region of Kastoria, southwestern Macedonia.

In the Second Balkan War IMRO bands fought the Greeks behind the front lines but were subsequently routed and driven out. The result of the Balkan Wars was that the Macedonian region was partitioned between Bulgaria, Greece, Serbia. IMARO maintained its existence in Bulgaria, where it played a role in politics by playing upon Bulgarian irredentism and urging a renewed war.

During the First World War in Macedonia (1915-1918) the organization supported Bulgarian army and joined to Bulgarian war-time authorities. Bulgarian army, supported by the organization's forces, was successful in the first stages of this conflict, came into positions on the line of the pre-war Greek-Serbian border.

The Bulgarian advance into Greek held Eastern Macedonia, precipitated internal Greek crisis. The government ordered its troops in the area not to resist, and most of the Corps was forced to surrender. However the post-war Treaty of Neuilly again denied Bulgaria what it felt was its share of Macedonia. From 1913 to 1926 there were large-scale changes in the population structure due to ethnic migrations.

During and after the Balkan Wars about 15,000 Slavs left the new Greek territories for Bulgaria but more significant was the Greek–Bulgarian convention 1919 in which some 72,000 Slavs-speakers left Greece for Bulgaria, mostly from Eastern Macedonia, which from then remained almost Slav free.

IMRO began sending armed bands into Greek Macedonia to assassinate officials. In 1920s in the region of Greek Macedonia 24 chetas and 10 local reconnaissance detachments were active. Many locals were repressed by the Greek authorities on suspicions of contacts with the revolutionary movement.

In this period the combined Macedonian-Adrianopolitan revolutionary movement separated into Internal Thracian Revolutionary Organization and Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization. ITRO was a revolutionary organization active in the Greek regions of Thrace and Eastern Macedonia to the river Strymon. The reason for the establishment of ITRO was the transfer of the region from Bulgaria to Greece in May 1920.

At the end of 1922, the Greek government started to expel large numbers of Thracian Bulgarians into Bulgaria and the activity of ITRO grew into an open rebellion. Meanwhile, the left-wing did form the new organisation called IMRO (United) in 1925 in Vienna. However, it did not have real popular support and remained based abroad with, closely linked to the Comintern and the Balkan Communist Federation.

IMRO's and ITRO's constant fratricidal killings and assassinations abroad provoked some within Bulgarian military after the coup of 19 May 1934 to take control and break the power of the organizations, which had come to be seen as a gangster organizations inside Bulgaria and a band of assassins outside it.

Interwar period

The Tarlis and Petrich incidents triggered heavy protests in Bulgaria and international outcry against Greece. The Common Greco-Bulgarian committee for emigration investigated the incident and presented its conclusions to League of Nations in Geneva. As a result a bilateral Bulgarian-Greek agreement was signed in Geneva on September 29, 1925 known as Politis-Kalfov protocol after the demand of the League of Nations, recognizing Greek slavophones as Bulgarians and guaranteeing their protection. Next month a Slavic language primer textbook in Latin known as Abecedar published by the Greek ministry for education, was introduced to Greek schools of Aegean Macedonia. On February 2, 1925, the Greek parliament, under pressure from Serbia, rejected ratification of the 1913 Greek-Serbian Coalition Treaty. Agreement lasted 9 months until June 10, 1925 when League of Nations annulled it.

During the 1920s the Comintern developed a new policy for the Balkans, about collaboration between the communists and the Macedonian movement. The idea for a new unified organization was supported by the Soviet Union, which saw a chance for using this well developed revolutionary movement to spread revolution in the Balkans. In the so-called May Manifesto of 6 May 1924, for first time the objectives of the unified Slav Macedonian liberation movement were presented: "independence and unification of partitioned Macedonia, fighting all the neighbouring Balkan monarchies, forming a Balkan Communist Federation". In 1934 the Comintern issued also a resolution about the recognition of the Slav Macedonian ethnicity. In this period Slavic Macedonian nationalism began to arise.[42] This decision was supported by the Greek Communist Party.

The Situation for Slav-speakers became unbearable when the Metaxas regime took power in 1936.[19] Metaxas was firmly opposed to the irredentist factions of the Slavophones of northern Greece mainly in Macedonia and Thrace, some of whom underwent political persecution due to advocacy of irredentism with regard to neighboring countries. Place names and surnames were officially Hellenized and the native Slavic dialects were banned even in personal use.[19] It was during this time that many Slavic-speakers fled their homes and immigrated to the United States, Canada and Australia. The name changes took place across other neighbouring states, according to the predominant language.

Ohrana and the Bulgarian annexation during WWII

Triple occupation of Greece. Bulgarian occupation zone in 1941 is shown in green. Additional Bulgarian occupation zone in 1943 is shown in red surrounded by green band.

Ohrana were armed detachments organized by the Bulgarian army, composed of pro-Bulgarian oriented part of the Slavic population in occupied Greek Macedonia during World War II, led by Bulgarian officers.[43][44]

In 1941 Greek Macedonia was occupied by German, Italian and Bulgarian troops. The Bulgarian troops occupied the whole of Eastern Macedonia and Western Thrace, where it was greeted from the greather part of a Slav-speekers as liberators.[45] At the beginning of the occupation in Greece most of the Slavic-speakers in the area felt themselves to be Bulgarians.[46] Only a small part espoused a pro-Hellenic feelings.

Unlike Germany and Italy, Bulgaria officially annexed the occupied territories, which had long been a target of Bulgarian irridentism.[47] A massive campaign of "Bulgarisation" was launched, which saw all Greek officials deported. This campaign was successful especially in Eastern and later in Central Macedonia, when Bulgarians entered the area in 1943, after Italian withdrawal from Greece.

All Slav-speekers there were regarded as Bulgarians and not so effective in German occupied Western Macedonia. A ban was placed on the use of the Greek language, the names of towns and places changed to the forms traditional in Bulgarian.

In addition, the Bulgarian government tried to alter the ethnic composition of the region, by expropriating land and houses from Greeks in favour of Bulgarian settlers. The same year, the German High Command approved the foundation of a Bulgarian military club in Thessaloníki.

The Bulgarians organized suppyling of food and provisions for the Slavic population in Central and Western Macedonia, aiming to gain the local population that was in the German and Italian occupied zones. The Bulgarian clubs soon started to gain support among parts of the population.

Many Communist political prisoners were released with the intercession of Bulgarian Club in Thessaloniki, which had made representations to the German occupation authorities. They all declared Bulgarian ethnicity.[48][49]

In 1942, the Bulgarian club asked assistance from the High command in organizing armed units among the Slavic-speaking population in northern Greece. For this purpose, the Bulgarian army, under the approval of the German forces in the Balkans sent a handful of officers from the Bulgarian army, to the zones occupied by the Italian and German troops to be attached to the German occupying forces as "liaison officers". All the Bulgarian officers brought into service were locally born Macedonians who had immigrated to Bulgaria with their families during the 1920s and 1930s as part of the Greek-Bulgarian Treaty of Neuilly which saw 90,000 Bulgarians migrating to Bulgaria from Greece.

These officers were given the objective to form armed Bulgarian militias. Bulgaria was interested in acquiring the zones under Italian and German occupation and hopped to sway the allegiance of the 80,000 Slavs who lived there at the time.[44] The appearance of Greek partisans in those areas persuaded the Italians to allow the formation of these collaborationst detachments.[44] Following the defeat of the Axis powers and the evacuation of the Nazi occupation forces many members of the Ohrana joined the SNOF where they could still pursue their goal of secession.

The advance of the Red Army into Bulgaria in September 1944, the withdrawal of the German armed forces from Greece in October, meant that the Bulgarian Army had to withdraw from Greek Macedonia and Thrace. There was a rapprochement between the Greek Communist Party and the Ohrana collaborationist units.[50]

Further collaboration between the Bulgarian-controlled Ohrana and the EAM controlled SNOF followed when it was agreed that Greek Macedonia would be allowed to secede.[51][52] Finally it is estimated that entire Ohrana units had joined the SNOF which began to press the ELAS leadership to allow it autonomous action in Greek Macedonia.[53]

There had been also a larger flow of refugees into Bulgaria as the Bulgarian Army pulled out of the Drama-Serres region in late 1944. A large proportion of Bulgarians and Slavic speakers emigrated there. In 1944 the declarations of Bulgarian nationality were estimated by the Greek authorities, on the basis of monthly returns, to have reached 16,000 in the districts of German-occupied Greek Macedonia,[54] but according to British sources, declarations of Bulgarian nationality throughout Western Macedonia reached 23,000.[55]

Greek Civil War

During the beginning of the Second World War, Greek Slavic-speaking citizens fought within the Greek army until the country was overrun in 1941. The Greek communists had already been influenced by the Comintern and it was the only political party in Greece to recognize Macedonian national identity.[56] As result many Slavic-speakers joined the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and participated in partisan activities. The KKE expressed its intent to "fight for the national self-determination of the repressed Macedonians" [57].

In 1943, the Slavic-Macedonian National Liberation Front (SNOF) was set up by ethnic Macedonian members of the KKE. The main aim of the SNOF was to obtain the entire support of the local population and to mobilize it, through SNOF, for the aims of the National Liberation Front (EAM)[58]. Another major aim was to fight against the Bulgarian organisation Ohrana and Bulgarian authorities.[59].

During this time, the ethnic Macedonians in Greece were permitted to publish newspapers in the Macedonian language and run schools[60]. In late 1944 after the German and Bulgarian withdrawal from Greece, the Josip Broz Tito's Partisans movement hardly concealed its intention of expanding.[61]

It was from this period that Slav-speakers in Greece who had previously referred to themselves as "Bulgarians" increasingly began to identify as "Macedonians".[62]

By 1945 World War II had ended and Greece was in open civil war. It has been estimated that after the end of the Second World War over 20,000 people fled from Greece to Bulgaria. To an extent the collaboration of the peasants with the Germans, Italians, Bulgarians or ELAS was determined by the geopolitical position of each village.

Depending upon whether their village was vulnerable to attack by the Greek communist guerrillas or the occupation forces, the peasants would opt to support the side in relation to which they were most vulnerable. In both cases, the attempt was to promise "freedom" (autonomy or independence) to the formerly persecuted Slavic minority as a means of gaining its support.[63]

National Liberation Front

Young Macedonians from the Kastorian village of Baptsori, in the ranks of the NOF.

The National Liberation Front (NOF) was organized by the political and military groups of the Slavic minority in Greece, active from 1945-1949. The interbellum was the time when part of them came to the conclusion that they are Macedonians. Greek hostility to the Slavic minority produced tensions that rose to separatism.

After the recognition in 1934 from the Comintern of the Macedonian ethnicity, the Greek communists have also recognized Macedonian national identity. That separatism was reinforced by Communist Yugoslavia's support, since Yugoslavia's new authorities after 1944 encouraged the growth of Macedonian national consciousness.

Following World War II, the population of Yugoslav Macedonia did begin to feel themselves to be Macedonian, assisted and pushed by a government policy.[64] Communist Bulgaria also began a policy of making Macedonia connecting link for the establishment of new Balkan Federative Republic and stimulating in Bulgarian Macedonia a development of distinct Slav Macedonian consciousness.[65] This inconsistent Bulgarian policy has thrown most independent observers ever since into a state of confusion as to the real origin of the population in Bulgarian Macedonia.[66]

At first, the NOF organized meetings, street and factory protests and published illegal underground newspapers. Soon after it founding, members began forming armed partisan detachments. In 1945, 12 such groups were formed in Kastoria, 7 in Florina, and 11 in Edessa and the Gianitsa region.[67] Many Aromanians also joined the Macedonians in NOF, especially in the Kastoria region. The NOF merged with the Democratic Army of Greece (DSE) which was the main armed unit supporting the Communist Party.

Owing to the KKE's equal treatment of Macedonian Slavs and Greeks, many Macedonians enlisted as volunteers in the DSE (60% of the DSE was composed of Slavic Macedonians).[68] It was during this time that books written in the Macedonian dialect (the official language was in process of codifying) were published and Macedonians cultural organizations theatres were opened.[69]

According to information announced by Paskal Mitrovski on the I plenum of NOF on August 1948, about 85% of the Slavic-speaking population in Greek Macedonia had an ethnic Macedonian self-identity. It has been estimated that out of DSE's 20,000 fighters, 14,000 were Slavic Macedonians from Greek Macedonia.[69][70]

Given their important role in the battle[71], the KKE changed its policy towards them. At the fifth Plenum of KKE on January 31, 1949, a resolution was passed declaring that after KKE's victory, the Slavic Macedonians would find their national restoration as they wish[72]

Refugee children

Further information: Child Refugees
Children Refugees fleeing across the border

The DSE was slowly driven back and eventually defeated. Thousands of Slavic-speakers were expelled and fled to the newly established Socialist Republic of Macedonia, while thousands more children took refuge in other Eastern Bloc countries.[69]

They are known as Децата бегалци/Decata begalci. Many of them made their way to the US, Canada and Australia. Other estimates claim that 5,000 were sent to Romania, 3,000 to Czechoslovakia, 2,500 to Bulgaria, Poland and Hungary and a further 700 to East Germany.[73]

There are also estimations that 52,000 - 72,000 people in total (incl. Greeks) were evacuated from Greece, [69] whereas Macedonian sources claim up to 213,000 Slavic speakers fled Greece at the end of the Civil War.[74]

However a 1951 document from the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia states the total number of Slavophones refugees (including Greeks) who came from Greece between the years 1941 – 1951 is 28,595.

From 1941 till 1944 500 found refuge in Yugoslav Macedonia, in 1944 4,000 people, in 1945 5,000 , in 1946 8,000, in 1947 6,000, in 1948 3,000, in 1949 2,000, in 1950 80, and in 1951 15 people. About 4,000 left Yugoslavia and moved to other Socialist countries (and very few went also to western countries).

So in 1951 at Yugoslavia were 24,595 refuges from Greek Macedonia. 19,000 lived in Yugoslav Macedonia, 4,000 in Serbia (mainly in Gakovo-Krusevlje) and 1595 in other Yugoslav republics.[75]

This data is confirmed by the KKE, which claims that the total number of political refugees from Greece (incl. Greeks) was 55,881.[76]

The return to Greece

Since the end of the Greek Civil War many Slavic speakers have attempted to return to their homes in Greece. A 1982 amnesty law which stated "all Greek by descent who during the civil war of 1946-1949 and because of it have fled abroad as political refugees"[77] had the right to return, thus excluding all those who did not identify as ethnic Greeks.[78]

This was brought to a forefront shortly after the independence of the Republic of Macedonia in 1991. Many Macedonians have been refused entry to Greece because their documentation listed the Slavic names of the places of birth as opposed to the now-official new Greek names, despite the Child Refugees, now elderly, only knowing their village by the local Macedonian name.[78]

These measures were even extended to Australian and Canadian citizens. Despite this, there have been sporadic periods of free entry most of which have only ever lasted a few days.[79]

Human rights issues

After the conclusion of the First World War a widespread policy of Hellenisation was implemented in the Greek region of Macedonia[80][81][82][83] with personal and topographic names forcibly changed to Greek shape [84] and Slavic or Cyrillic inscriptions across Northern Greece even removed from gravestones and churches.[84][85]

Under the regime of Ioannis Metaxas the situation for Slavic speakers became intolerable, causing many to emigrate. A law was passed banning Slavic native tongue.[86][87][88] Many people who broke the rule were deported to the islands of Thasos and Cephalonia.[89] Others were arrested, fined, beaten and forced to drink castor oil. [81], or even deported to the border regions in Yugoslavia[69] following a staunch government policy of chasing minorities.[90]

During the Greek Civil War period areas under Communist Control freely taught the newly codified Macedonian language. Throughout this period it is claimed that the Macedonian language and culture flourished [91]. However the Provisional Government was exiled and tens of thousands of Slavic speakers were expelled from Greece.[92][93][94][95] Many fled in order to avoid persecution from the ensuing National army.[96][97]

Although these refugees have been classed as political refugees there have been claims that they were also targeted due to their ethnic and cultural identities.

Over 10,000 children went to 87 schools, Slavic language newspapers were printed and theatres opened. As the Governmental forces approached these facilities were either shut down or destroyed.

People feared oppression and the loss of their rights under the rule of the Greek government, which in turn caused many people to flee Greece. Over the course of the war thousands of Aegean Macedonians had were killed, imprisoned or had their land confiscated.[19][98] Of course, those who fled during the Greek Civil War were stripped of their Greek Citizenship and property.[99]

In 1959 it was reported that the inhabitants of three villages adopted a 'language oath', renouncing their Slavic dialect.[100] According to Riki Van Boeschoten, this "peculiar ritual" took place "probably on the initiative of local government officials."[101]

During the Cold War cases of discrimination against people who identified as ethnic Macedonians and the Macedonian language have been reported by the Human Rights Watch/Helsinki.[100] Independent expert on minority issues, Gay McDougall, asserts that those who claim a Macedonian ethnicity are limited with respect to the full enjoyment of their rights of self-identification.[102]


Yet many regional folk songs and dances are performed and practised. They celebrate many Greek and Slavic holidays. The Lerinsko oro/lerin dance, with origins in the region of Florina, is also popular amongst Slavic speakers. Other dances popularized by the Boys from Buf include the Bufsko Pušteno and Armensko Oro. Greece has blocked attempts by Slavic speakers to establish a Home of Macedonian Culture despite being convicted for a violation of freedom of association by the European Court of Human Rights.[103]

Education and language

Distribution of the Macedonian language in the Florina Prefecture and Aridaia regions (1993)

They speak various Slavic dialects, most of them usually classified as part of the Macedonian language. However they are often referred to as simply the "local" language, naši [our own], stariski/starski [old language], slávika [Slavic]. These include the Upper and Lower Prespa dialects, the Lerin variant of the Prilep-Bitola dialect, the Kostur, Nestram-Kostenar, and Solun-Voden dialects. The Ser-Drama-Lagadin-Gotse Delchev dialect is considered to be transitional between Macedonian and Bulgarian. The majority of the speakers also speak Greek along with their native dialect. Slavic speakers in Greece attend Greek language schools as their native tongue is not taught in Greece.

During the late 19th and early 20th century Bulgarian was taught in the Bulgarian Exarchate's schools. The Abecedar primer originally printed in 1925 was designed for Slavic language students.In the 1930s the Metaxas regime banned the Slavic language in public and private use. Also in the period 1941–1944 Bulgarian language was taught in the annexed regions. The official use of the new-codified Macedonian language was sanctioned during the Greek Civil War as many Slavic-speakers joined the Greek Communist Party. Today Slavic dialects are freely spoken in Greece however there are serious fears for the loss the language among the younger generations due to the lack of exposure to their native language. The Rainbow Party has called for the introduction of the language in schools and for official purposes.[104] In 2006 the Macedonian language primer Abecedar was reprinted in an informal attempt to introduce the language.[105] The Abecedar primer was reprinted in 2006 by the Rainbow, Political Party, it was printed in Macedonian, Greek and English.[106] There are plans by local activists that in 2009 some classes may unofficially begin to teach Macedonian language in a private schools in the towns of Edessa and Florina.[107]

Notable persons

See also

External links


  1. ^ a b
  2. ^ Jacques Bacid, Ph.D. Macedonia Through the Ages. Columbia University, 1983.
  3. ^ GeoNative - Macedonia
  4. ^ L. M. Danforth, The Macedonian Conflict: Ethnic Nationalism in a Transnational World 1995, Princeton University Press
  5. ^
  6. ^ UCLA Language Materials Project: Language Profile
  7. ^ UCLA Language Materials Project: Language Profile
  8. ^ Michel Candelier, ed. ; Ana-Isabel Andrade ... (2004). Janua Linguarum — The Gateway to Language. Council of Europe. ISBN 9287153124. , See Page 90, (Full Document)
  9. ^ Greek Helsinki Monitor March 18, 2002 Report
  11. ^ Shea, John (1992). The Real Macedonians. Newcastle. pp. 148. ISBN 0646105043. , >Poulton, Hugh (1995). Who are the Macedonians?. C. Hurst & Co. Publishers. pp. 167. ISBN 1850652384. , abstract from page 125
  12. ^ 2001 Country Report on Human Rights Practices published by the United States Department of State[2]
  13. ^ Loring M. Danforth (1997). The Macedonian Conflict. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0691043566, 9780691043562. , Pg.69, preview in Google Books
  14. ^ Howard Jones (1997). A new kind of war. Oxford University Press US. ISBN 0195113853, 9780195113853. , Pg.69, preview in Google Books
  15. ^ Plundered loyalties: Axis occupation and civil strife in Greek West Macedonia, 1941-1949, John S. Koliopoulos, C. Hurst & Co. Publishers, 1999, ISBN 185065381X, p. 35.
  16. ^ 2006 Australian census, question on ancestry
  17. ^ The Australian People: An Encyclopedia of the Nation, 1988, James Jupp(Editor), Angus and Roberston, Sydney.
  18. ^ Simpson, Neil (1994). Macedonia Its Disputed History. Victoria: Aristoc Press. pp. 92. ISBN 0646204629.
  19. ^ a b c d e Peter,Hill. (1989) The Macedonians in Australia, Hesperian Press, Carlisle
  20. ^ Stephan Thernstrom, Ann Orlov, Oscar Handlin (1980). Harvard encyclopedia of American ethnic groups. Harvard University Press. ISBN 0674375122, 9780674375123. , Pg 691 preview in Google Books
  21. ^ Minority Rights Group,Minorities in the Balkans, page 75.
  22. ^ Who are the Macedonians? Hugh Poulton. C. Hurst & Co. Publishers, 1995, ISBN 1850652384,p. 109.
  23. ^ Population exchange in Greek Macedonia: the rural settlement of refugees 1922-1930, Elisabeth Kontogiorgi, Oxford University Press, 2006, ISBN 0199278962, p. 200.
  24. ^ Plundered loyalties: Axis occupation and civil strife in Greek West Macedonia, 1941-1949, John S. Koliopoulos, C. Hurst & Co. Publishers, 1999, ISBN 185065381X, p. 108.
  25. ^ Minorities in Greece: aspects of a plural society, Richard Clogg, C. Hurst & Co. Publishers, 2002, ISBN 1850657068, p.142,
  26. ^ The Macedonian Conflict: Ethnic Nationalism in a Transnational World, Loring M. Danforth, Princeton University Press, 1997, ISBN 0691043566, p. 116.
  27. ^ ...The matter is certainly more complex here, as the majority of the Greek citizens who grew up in what is usually called “Slavophone” or “bilingual” families have today a Greek national identity, as a result of either conscientious choice or coercion of their ancestors, in the first half of the twentieth century. The second group is made up of those who seem to reject any national identity (Greek or Macedonian) but have distinct ethnic identity, which they may call “indigenous” -dopia-, Slavomacedonian, or Macedonian. The smallest group is made up of those who have a clear Macedonian national identity and consider themselves as part of the same nation with the dominant one in the neighboring Republic of Macedonia. ... See: Greek Helsinki Monitor, Report about Compliance with the Principles of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (along guidelines for state reports according to Article 25.1 of the Convention), 18 September 1999, Part I, [3]
  28. ^ Macedonia: the politics of identity and difference, Jane K. Cowan, Pluto Press, 2000, ISBN 0745315895, pp. 102-102.
  29. ^ ...Apart from certain peripheral areas in the far east of Greek Macedonia, which in our opinion must be considered as part of the Bulgarian linguistic area, the dialects of the Slav minority in Greece belong to Macedonia diasystem..., see: Trudgill P., 2000, "Greece and European Turkey: From Religious to Linguistic Identity". In: Stephen Barbour and Cathie Carmichael (eds.), Language and Nationalism in Europe, Oxford : Oxford University Press, p.259.
  30. ^ "Greece – Report about Compliance with the Principles of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (along guidelines for state reports according to Article 25.1 of the Convention)". Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM) & Minority Rights Group – Greece (MRG-G). 1999-09-18. Retrieved 2009-01-12. 
  31. ^ See Ethnologue ([4]); Euromosaic, Le (slavo)macédonien / bulgare en Grèce, L'arvanite / albanais en Grèce, Le valaque/aromoune-aroumane en Grèce, and Mercator-Education: European Network for Regional or Minority Languages and Education, The Turkish language in education in Greece. cf. also P. Trudgill, "Greece and European Turkey: From Religious to Linguistic Identity", in S Barbour, C Carmichael (eds.), Language and nationalism in Europe, Oxford University Press 2000.
  32. ^ A charter of Romanus II, 960 Pulcherius (Slav-Bulgarian population in Chalcidice Peninsula is mentioned), Receuil des historiens des Croisades. Historiens orientaux. III, p. 331 – a passage in English Georgii Cedreni compendium, op. cit, pp. 449-456 - a passage in English (Bulgarian population in Servia is mentioned) In the so-called Legend of Thessalonica (12th c.) it is said that the Bulgarian language was also spoken hi the market place of Thessalonica, Documents of the notary Manoli Braschiano concerning the sale and liberation of slaves of Bulgarian nationality from Macedonia (Kastoria, Seres, region of Thesalonica etc), From the Third Zograf Beadroll, containing the names of donors to the Zograf Monastery at Mt. Athos from settlements and regions indicated as Bulgarian lands, Evidence from the Venetian Ambassador Lorenzo Bernardo on the Bulgarian character of the settlements in Macedonia
  33. ^ Венециански документи за историята на България и българите от ХІІ-ХV век, София 2001, с. 150, 188/Documenta Veneta historiam Bulgariae et Bulgarorum illustrantia saeculis XII-XV, p. 150, 188, edidit Vassil Gjuzelev (Venetian documents for the history of Bulgaria and Bulgarians, p. 150, 188 - Venetian documents from 14-15th century about Slaves from South Macedonia with Bulgarian belonging/origin)
  34. ^ Journal of Modern Greek Studies 14.2 (1996) 253-301 Nationalism and Identity Politics in the Balkans: Greece and the Macedonian Question by Victor Roudometof.
  35. ^ "Traditional songs of the Greek Struggle for Macedonia", Petropoulos A. Dimitrios, Company of Macedonian Studies, Thessaloniki, January 1969
  36. ^ The Balkans: From Constantinople to Communism. Dennis Hupchik
  37. ^
  38. ^ Ivo Banac, "The Macedoine" in "The National Question in Yugoslavia. Origins, History, Politics", pp. 307-328, Cornell University Press, 1984, retrieved on September 8, 2007.
  39. ^ Nationality on the Balkans. The case of the Macedonians, by F. A. K. Yasamee. (Balkans: A Mirror of the New World Order, Istanbul: EREN, 1995; pp. 121-132.
  40. ^ Даскалов, Георги. Българите в Егейска Македония. Rсторико-демографско изследване /1900-1990/, София, Македонски научен институт, 1996, с. 165 (Daskalov, Georgi. The Bulgarians in Aegean Macedonia. Historical-Demographic research /1900-1990/, Sofia, published by Macedonian Scientific Institute, 1996, p. 165.)
  41. ^ Capidan, Theodor. Meglenoromânii, istoria şi graiul lor, vol. I, Bucureşti, 1925, p.5, 19, 21-22. (Capidan, Theodor. Megleno-Romanians - their history and dialect, Bucurest 1925, vol 1, p.5, 19, 21-22.)
  42. ^ "Резолюция о македонской нации (принятой Балканском секретариате Коминтерна" - Февраль 1934 г, Москва
  43. ^ "The Second World War and the Triple Occupation"
  44. ^ a b c Miller, Marshall Lee (1975). Bulgaria During the Second World War. Stanford University Press. p. 129. ISBN 0804708703. "In Greece the Bulgarians reacquired their former territory, extending along the Aegean coast from the Struma (Strymon) River east of Salonika to Dedeagach (Alexandroupolis) on the Turkish border. Bulgaria looked longingly toward Salonika and western Macedonia, which were under German and Italian control, and established propaganda centres to secure the allegiance of the approximately 80,000 Slavs in these regions. The Bulgarian plan was to organize these Slavs militarily in the hope that Bulgaria would eventually assume the administration there. The appearance of Greek partisans in western Macedonia persuaded the Italian and German authorities to allow the formation of Slav security battalions (Ohrana) led by Bulgarian officers." 
  45. ^ Loring M. Danforth. The Macedonian Conflict: Ethnic Nationalism in a Transnational World. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1995. ISBN 978-0-691-04357-9.p. 73.
  46. ^ The struggle for Greece, 1941-1949, Christopher Montague Woodhouse, C. Hurst & Co. Publishers, 2002, ISBN 1850654921, p. 67.
  47. ^ Mazower (2000), p. 276
  48. ^ Uranros, 103-4.
  49. ^ Makedonia newapaper, 11 May 1948.
  50. ^ Cowan, Jane K. (2000). Macedonia: the politics of identity and difference. Sydney: Pluto Press. pp. 73. ISBN 0-7453-1589-5. "He also played a leading part in effecting a rapprochement between the GCP (Greek Communist Party) and Ohrana" 
  51. ^ Fritz August Voigt (1949). Pax Britannica. Constable. pp. 94. "Collaboration between the Ohrana, under Bulgarian control, and SNOF, under the control of EAM, and, therefore, of the Greek Communist Party" 
  52. ^ The Twentieth Century. Nineteenth Century and After: A. D. Caratzas. 1946. pp. 12. "Collaboration between the Bulgarian-controlled Ohrana and the EAM -controlled SNOF followed upon an agreement that Macedonia should become autonomous" 
  53. ^ Kophos, Euangelos; Kōphos, Euangelos (1993). Nationalism and communism in Macedonia: civil conflict, politics of mutation, national identity. New Rochelle, N.Y: A. D. Caratzas. pp. 125. ISBN 0-89241-540-1. "By September, entire Ohrana units had joined the SNOF which, in turn, began to press the ELAS leadership to allow it to raise the SNOF battalion to division" 
  54. ^ Plundered loyalties: Axis occupation and civil strife in Greek, 1941-1949 by Giannēs S Koliopoulos, London, Hurst & Co.,1999, ISBN 9781850653813, p. 53.
  55. ^ F0371/58615, Thessaloniki consular report of 24 Sep. 1946
  56. ^ Incompatible Allies: Greek Communism and Macedonian Nationalism in the Civil War in Greece, 1943-1949, Andrew Rossos - The Journal of Modern History 69 (March 1997): 42
  57. ^ KKE, Πέντε Χρόνια Αγώνες 1931-1936, Athens, 2nd ed., 1946.
  58. ^ "Славјано Македонски Глас", 15 Јануари 1944 с.1
  59. ^ "АМ, Збирка: Егејска Македонија во НОБ 1941-1945 - (Повик на СНОФ до Македонците од Костурско 16 Мај 1944)"
  60. ^ "Народно Ослободителниот Фронт и други организации на Македонците од Егејскиот дел на Македонија. (Ристо Кирјазовски)", Скопје, 1985.
  61. ^ Macedonia in the 1940s. Modern and Contemporary Macedonia, vol. II, 64-103. [5] by Yiannis D. Stefanidis
  62. ^ Watch 1320 Helsinki, Human Rights Watch/Helsinki (Organization : U.S.); Lois Whitman, Jeri Laber (1994). Denying Ethnic Identity: The Macedonians of Greece. Toronto: Human Rights Watch. pp. 9. ISBN 1564321320. 
  63. ^ John S. Koliopoulos. Plundered Loyalties: World War II and Civil War in Greek West Macedonia. Foreword by C. M. Woodhouse. New York: New York University Press. 1999. p. 304.
  64. ^ Loring M. Danforth. The Macedonian Conflict: Ethnic Nationalism in a Transnational World. Reviewed by Nicholas Miller (Boise State University)Published on HABSBURG (January, 1996)
  65. ^ Europe since 1945. Encyclopedia by Bernard Anthony Cook. ISBN 0815340583, pg. 808.[6]
  66. ^ At the end of the 1950s the Bulgarian Communist Party repealed its previous decision and adopted a position denying the existence of a Macedonian nation.
  67. ^ "Les Archives de la Macedonine, Fond: Aegean Macedonia in NLW" - (Field report of Mihail Keramidzhiev to the Main Command of NOF), 8 July 1945
  68. ^ "Η Τραγική αναμέτρηση, 1945-1949 – Ο μύθος και η αλήθεια. Ζαούσης Αλέξανδρος" (ISBN 9607213432).
  69. ^ a b c d e Simpson, Neil (1994). Macedonia Its Disputed History. Victoria: Aristoc Press. pp. 101,102 & 91. ISBN 0646204629. 
  70. ^ Ζαούσης Αλέξανδρος. Η Τραγική αναμέτρηση, 1945-1949 – Ο μύθος και η αλήθεια (ISBN 9607213432).
  71. ^ Speech presented by Nikos Zachariadis at the Second Congress of the NOF (National Liberation Front of the ethnic Macedonians from Greek Macedonia), published in Σαράντα Χρόνια του ΚΚΕ 1918-1958, Athens, 1958, p. 575.
  72. ^ An excerpt from the Resolution of the Fifth Plenary Session of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE)
  73. ^ [ Nationalism, Society and Culture in post-Ottoman South East Europe]
  74. ^ Human Rights Violations Against Ethnic Macedonians-Report 1996, Macedonian Human Rights Movement of Canada, Toronto, 1996; p.111-112
  75. ^ report of General consultant of Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia addressed to foreign ministry of Greece Doc 47 15-7-1951 SMIR, ΡΑ, Grcka, 1951, f-30, d-21,410429, (έκθεση του γενικού προξενείου της Γιουγκοσλαβίας στη Θεσσαλονίκη SMIR, ΡΑ, Grcka, 1951, f-30, d-21,410429, Γενικό Προξενείο της Ομόσπονδης Λαϊκής Δημοκρατίας της Γιουγκοσλαβίας προς Υπουργείο Εξωτερικών, Αρ. Εγγρ. 47, Θεσσαλονίκη 15.7.1951. (translated and published by Spiros Sfetas . ΛΓ΄, Θεσσαλονίκη 2001-2002 by the Macedonian Studies )
  76. ^ 3rd KKE congress 10-14/10/1950: Situation and problems of the political refuges in People’s Republics pages 263 - 311 (3η Συνδιάσκεψη του Κόμματος (10 - 14/10/1950. Βλέπε: "III Συνδιάσκεψη του ΚΚΕ, εισηγήσεις, λόγοι, αποφάσεις - Μόνο για εσωκομματική χρήση - Εισήγηση Β. Μπαρτζιώτα: Η κατάσταση και τα προβλήματα των πολιτικών προσφύγων στις Λαϊκές Δημοκρατίες", σελ. 263 – 311”) Quote: “Total number of political refuges : 55,881 (23,028 men, 14,956 women and 17,596 children, 368 unknown or not accounted)”
  77. ^ Macedonia - Jane K. Cowan, Pluto Press 2000, Google Books preview
  78. ^ a b Human Rights Watch, Helsinki (1994). Denying Ethnic Identity; The Macedonians Of Greece. New York: Human Rights Watch. ISBN 1564321320. 
  79. ^ Greece_CBC_3
  80. ^ Denying Ethnic Identity: the Macedonians of Greece, Human Rights Watch/Helsinki, New York, 1994
  81. ^ a b Nettle, Daniel; Suzanne Romaine (2000). Vanishing Voices: The Extinction of the World's Languages. Oxford University Press US. pp. 175. ISBN 0195136241. 
  82. ^ Pentzopoulos, Dimitri (2002). The Balkan exchange of minorities and its impact on Greece. C. Hurst & Co. Publishers. pp. 132. ISBN 1850656746. 
  83. ^ Shea, John (1997). Macedonia and Greece: the struggle to define a new Balkan nation. McFarland press. pp. 62. ISBN 0786402288. 
  84. ^ a b Forward, Jean S. (2001). Endangered peoples of Europe: struggles to survive and thrive. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 89. ISBN 0313310068. 
  85. ^ Simpson, Neil (1994). Macedonia Its Disputed History. Aristoc Press. pp. 64. ISBN 0646204629. 
  86. ^ Mackridge, Peter; Eleni Yannakakis (1997). Ourselves and Others: The Development of a Greek Macedonian Cultural Identity Since 1912. Berg Publishers. pp. 66. ISBN 0646209272. 
  87. ^ Simpson, Neil (1994). Macedonia Its Disputed History. Aristoc Press. pp. 65. ISBN 0646204629. 
  88. ^ Shea, John (1997). Macedonia and Greece: the struggle to define a new Balkan nation. McFarland press. pp. 111. ISBN 0786402288. 
  89. ^ The Rising Sun In the Balkans: The Republic of Macedonia, International Affairs Agency, Sydney, Pollitecon Publications, 1995; p.33
  90. ^ Rossos, Andrew (2008). Macedonia and the Macedonians: A History. Hoover Press. pp. 145. ISBN 0817948821. 
  91. ^ Simpson, Neil (1994). Macedonia Its Disputed History. Aristoc Press. pp. 90. ISBN 0646204629. 
  92. ^ Macridge, Peter A.; Eleni Yannakakis (1997). Ourselves and Others: The Development of a Greek Macedonian Cultural Identity Since 1912. Berg Publishers. pp. 148. ISBN 1859731384. 
  93. ^ Multicultural Canada
  94. ^ Macedonian Refugees from Greece Meet
  95. ^ Balkan Insight
  96. ^ Danforth, Loring M. (1997). The Macedonian Conflict. Princeton University Press. pp. 54. ISBN 0691043566. 
  97. ^ Kalyvas, Stathis N.; Eleni Yannakakis (2006). The Logic of Violence in Civil War. Cambridge University Press. pp. 312. ISBN 0521854091. 
  98. ^ Rossos, Andrew (2007). Macedonia and the Macedonians: A History. Hoover Press. pp. 208. ISBN 0817948813. 
  99. ^ Decree LZ/1947; later by Law 2536/1953 & Decree M/1948, N/1948, and Law 2536/1953, Denying Ethnic Identity: the Macedonians of Greece: the Macedonians of Greece, Human Rights Watch/Helsinki, New York, 1994
  100. ^ a b Denying Ethnic Identity: the Macedonians of Greece: the Macedonians of Greece, Human Rights Watch/Helsinki, New York, 1994
  101. ^ Van Boeschoten, Riki (2006). "Code-switching, Linguistic Jokes and Ethnic Identity,Reading Hidden Transcripts in a Cross-Cultural Contex". Journal of Modern Greek Studies 25. 
  102. ^ Report of the independent expert on minority issues, Gay McDougall
  103. ^ The BALKAN Human Rights Web Pages
  104. ^
  105. ^ Macedonian Abecedar re-published in Greece after 81 years
  106. ^
  107. ^ Nova Makedonija

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