Macedonia is a geographical and historical region of the Balkan peninsula in southeastern Europe whose area was re-defined in the early 20th century. There is no official recognition of these arbitrary delimitations, especially since they include territories of Bulgaria, Serbia and Albania that are not called "Macedonia". The region in question covers parts of six Balkan countries: Greece, Republic of Macedonia, Bulgaria and minor parts of Albania, Serbia, and Kosovo and covers approximately 67,000 square kilometers (km2) and a population of 4.76 million.
This arbitrary territory corresponds to the basins of (from west to east) the Aliákmon, Vardar/Axios and Struma/Strymon rivers (of which the Axios/Vardar drains by far the largest area) and the plains around Thessaloniki and Serres.
According to geographer H.R. Wilkinson, "it defies definition". Its current 'geographical' limits are nonhomogeneous - either ethnically or geographically - and they were established only in 1899, by the Greek cartographer C. Nicolaides for political purposes. His map took hold a few years later The map area was adopted by Bulgarian geographers V. Kancev, in 1900 and D.M.Brancoff in 1905. (Wilkinson 1951:130,136). The perception of the 'division' of a single area emerged as a historical hindsight.
The Roman province of Macedonia consisted of what is today Northern and Central Greece, the geographical area of the present-day Republic of Macedonia and southeast Albania. Simply put, it covered a much larger area than ancient Macedon.
In the Byzantine Empire a province under the name of Macedonia was carved out of the original Thema of Thrace, which was well east of the Struma River. This thema variously included parts of Eastern Rumelia and western Thrace and gave its name to the Macedonian dynasty. Hence, Byzantine documents of this era that mention Macedonia are most probably referring to the Macedonian thema. The region of Macedonia, on the other hand, which was ruled by the First Bulgarian Empire throughout the 9th and the 10th century, was incorporated into the Byzantine Empire in 1018 as the Thema of Bulgaria.
With the gradual conquest of southeastern Europe by the Ottomans in the late 14th century, the name of Macedonia disappeared for good as an administrative designation for several centuries and was rarely displayed on maps. The name was again revived to mean a distinct geographical region with roughly the same borders as today by European cartographers in the 20th century.
During medieval and modern times, Macedonia was known as a Balkan region inhabited by ethnic Greeks, Albanians, Vlachs, Serbs, Bulgarians, Jews, and Turks.
Today as a frontier region where several very different cultures meet, Macedonia has an extremely diverse demographic profile. Greek Macedonians or "Makedones" (also known as Macedonian Greeks or simply Macedonians), form the majority of the region's population, living almost entirely in Greek Macedonia although there are also Greek minorities in Albania, Bulgaria and the Republic of Macedonia. In Albania, Greeks number 58,785 according to the 1989 census, and in the Blagoevgrad Province (Pirin Macedonia) in Bulgaria, 86 people declared themselves Greeks in the 2001 census (out of a total of 3,408 in all Bulgaria) and the number of Greeks in the Republic of Macedonia is 442 according to the 2002 census.
Ethnic Macedonians (also known as Macedonian Slavs) are the second largest ethnic group in the region. They are primarily of Slavic origin forming the majority of the population in the Republic of Macedonia. According to the 2002 census, approximately 1,300,000 people declared themselves as Macedonians. According to the latest Bulgarian census held in 2001, there are 3,117 people declaring as ethnic Macedonians in the Blagoevgrad Province of Bulgaria (Pirin Macedonia). The official number of ethnic Macedonians in Bulgaria is 5,071. The number of ethnic Macedonians and Slavic speakers in Greek Macedonia is uncertain. The 1951 census recorded 41,017 Slavophones mostly in the Periphery of Western Macedonia. The linguistic classification of the Slavic dialects spoken by these people can be either Bulgarian or Macedonian Slavic, although the people themselves call their language Slavic. Most of these people declare themselves as Greeks (Slavophone Greeks), although there are small groups espousing ethnic Macedonian and Bulgarian national identities. A political party promoting the concept and rights of what they describe as the "Macedonian minority in Greece" - the Rainbow (Greek: Ουράνιο Τόξο, Ouránio Tóxo) - was founded in September 1998, and received 2,955 votes in Macedonia in the 2004 elections. Similarly, a pro-Bulgarian political party, known as Bulgarian Human Rights in Macedonia (Greek: Βουλγαρικά Ανθρώπινα Δικαιώματα στη Μακεδονία, Voulgariká Anthrópina Dikaiómata sti Makedonía) was established in June 2000, promoting the concept and rights of what they describe as the "Bulgarian minority in Greece", although they have yet to participate in elections. In the 1989 Albanian census approximately 5,000 Albanian citizens declared themselves Macedonians. The identity of the Macedonians is a disputed question in the region.
The other two major ethnic groups in the region are the Bulgarians and the Albanians. Bulgarians represent the bulk of the population of Pirin Macedonia (Blagoevgrad Province), although there are Bulgarian-identifying groups in Albania, Greece and the Republic of Macedonia. Albania and Greece each have both a Bulgarian and an ethnic Macedonian organization, and in the Republic of Macedonia, 1,417 people claimed a Bulgarian ethnic identity in the 2002 census. Paradoxically, during the last few years there has been around 60,000 Macedonians applying for Bulgarian citizenship and some 10,000 ethnic Macedonians have already obtained Bulgarian passports. Bulgaria’s admission to the European Union is evidently a powerful motivation factor. In order to obtain it they must sign a statement proving they are Bulgarian by origin, effectively not recognising their rights as a minority Ethnic Albanians make up the majority in certain northern and western parts of the Republic of Macedonia, and account for 25.2% of the total population of the Republic of Macedonia, according to the last census held in 2002.
Most of the inhabitants of the regions are Christians of the Eastern Orthodox rite (principally the Greek Orthodox, the Bulgarian Orthodox, and the Serbian Orthodox Churches, as well as the unrecognized Macedonian Orthodox Church). There is, however, a substantial Muslim minority - principally among the Albanians, Pomaks (Muslim Slavic Speakers), Macedonian Muslims or Torbeshi, Bosniaks, and Turks.
Macedonia, as a region, is known to have been inhabited since Paleolithic times. Its recorded history began with the emergence of the ancient kingdom of Macedon centred somewhere between the southern slopes of Lower Olympus and the lowest reach of the Haliakmon River. By 500 BC, the early Macedonian kingdoms had become subject to the Persian Empire but played no significant part in the wars between the Persians and the Greeks.
King Alexander I of Macedon (died 450 BC) was the first Macedonian king to play a significant role in Greek politics, promoting the adoption of the Attic dialect and culture. The Hellenic character of Macedon grew over the next century until, under the rule of Philip II of Macedon, Macedon extended its power in the 4th century BC over the rest of northern Greece. Philip's son Alexander the Great created an even bigger empire, not only conquering the rest of Greece but also seizing control of the Persian Empire, Egypt and lands as far east as the fringes of India.
Much of the impetus towards the creation of this common identity was provided by Alexander the Great. Alexander's conquests produced a lasting extension of Greek culture and thought across the ancient Near East, but his empire broke up on his death. His generals divided the empire between them, founding their own states and dynasties - notably Antigonus I, Antipater, Lysimachus, Perdiccas, Ptolemy I, and Seleucus I. Macedon itself was taken by Cassander, who ruled it until his death in 297 BC. Antigonus II took control in 277 BC following a period of civil strife. During his long reign, which lasted until 239 BC, he successfully restored Macedonian prosperity despite losing many of the subjugated Greek city-states. His successor Antigonus III (reigned 229 BC-221 BC) re-established Macedonian power across the region.
Macedon sovereignty was brought to an end at the hands of the rising power of Rome in the 2nd century BC. Philip V of Macedon took his kingdom to war against the Romans in two wars during his reign (221 BC-179 BC). The First Macedonian War (215 BC-205 BC) was fairly successful for the Macedonians but Philip was decisively defeated in the Second Macedonian War in (200 BC-197 BC). Although he survived war with Rome, his successor Perseus of Macedon (reigned 179 BC-168 BC) did not; having taken Macedon into the Third Macedonian War in (171 BC-168 BC), he lost his kingdom when he was defeated. Macedonia was initially divided into four republics subject to Rome before finally being annexed in 146 BC as a Roman province.
The Slavic settlements were referred to by Byzantine Greek historians as "Sklaviniai". The Sklaviniai participated in several assaults against the Byzantine Empire - alone or aided by Bulgars or Avars. Around 680 AD the Bulgar group, led by khan Kuber (who belonged to the same clan as the Danubian Bulgarian khan Asparukh), settled in the Pelagonian plain, and launched campaigns to the region of Thessaloniki. In the late 7th century Justinian II organized a massive expeditions against the Sklaviniai of the Greek peninsula, in which he reportedly captured over 110,000 Slavs and transferred them to Cappadocia. By the time of Constans II (who also organized campaigns against the Slavs), the significant number of the Slavs of Macedonia were captured and transferred to central Asia Minor where they were forced to recognize the authority of the Byzantine emperor and serve in its ranks. There are no Byzantine records of "Sklaviniai" after 836/837 as they were absorbed into the expanding Slavic First Bulgarian Empire. Slavic influence in the region strengthened along with the rise of this state, which incorporated parts of the region to its domain in 837 AD. In the early 860s Saints Cyril and Methodius, Byzantines born in Thessaloniki, created the first Slavic Glagolitic alphabet in which the Old Church Slavonic language was first transcribed, and are thus are commonly referred to as the apostles-christianizators of the Slavic world. Their cultural heritage was acquired and developed in medieval Bulgaria, where after 885 the region of Ohrid (modern day RoM) became significant ecclesiastical center with the nomination of the Saint Clement of Ohrid for "first archbishop in Bulgarian language" with residence in this region. In conjunction with another disciple of Saints Cyril and Methodius, Saint Naum, Clement created a flourishing Bulgarian cultural center around Ohrid, where pupils were taught theology in the Old Church Slavonic language and the Glagolitic and Cyrillic alphabet at what is now called Ohrid Literary School. The Bulgarian-Byzantine boundary in the beginning of 10th century passed approximately 20 km north of Thessaloniki according to the inscription of Narash. According to Byzantine author John Kameniat at that time the neighbouring settlements around Thessaloniki were inhabited by "Scythians" (Bulgarians) and the Slavic tribes of Druguvites and Sagudates in addition to Greeks.
At the end of the 10th century what is now the Republic of Macedonia became the political and cultural heartland of the First Bulgarian Empire after Byzantine emperors John I Tzimiskes and Basil II conquered the eastern part of the Bulgarian empire. The Bulgarian capital Preslav and the Bulgarian Tsar Boris II were captured in 972. A new capital was established at Ohrid, which also became the seat of the Bulgarian Patriarchate. Tsar Samuil and his successors continued resistance against the Byzantines for several more decades, before also succumbing in 1018. Basil II became known as the 'Bulgar slayer' after he captured and blinded 14,000 Bulgarian soldiers in 1014. The western part of Bulgaria including Macedonia was incorporated into the Byzantine Empire as the province of Bulgaria (Thema Bulgaria) and the Bulgarian Patriarchate was reduced in rank to an Archbishopric.
Intermittent slavic uprisings continued to occur, often with the support of the Serbian princedoms to the north. Any temporary independence that might have been gained was usually crushed swiftly by the Byzantines. It was also was marked by periods of war between the Normans and Byzantium, who were bitter enemies. The Normans launched offensives from their lands acquired in southern Italy, and temporarily gained rule over small areas in the northwest coast.
From the 12th century, parts of Macedonia were concurred by the Serbian kingdom of Raska. The zenith of the Serbian empire was in the 14th century when it conquered all of Macedonia, northern and central Greece - excluding Thessaloniki, Athens and the Peloponessus. In 1346, King Stefan Uroš IV Dušan of Serbia was crowned Tsar (Emperor) of the Serbs and Greeks. His empire broke up shortly after his death in 1355.
At this time, the Ottoman threat was looming in the Balkans, as the Ottomans defeated the Christian coalition of Serbs, Bulgarians and Greeks. After the Ottoman victory in the Battle of Maritsa in 1371, most of Macedonia accepted vassalage to the Ottomans and by the end of the 14th century the Ottoman Empire fully annexed it. Macedonia remained a part of the Ottoman Empire for nearly 500 years, during which time it gained a substantial Turkish minority. Thessaloniki later become the home of a large Jewish population following the expulsions of Jews after 1492 from Spain.
After the revival of Greek, Serbian, and Bulgarian statehood in the 19th century, the Ottoman lands in Europe that became identified as Macedonia, were contested by all three governments, leading to the creation in the 1890s and 1900s of rival armed groups who divided their efforts between fighting the Turks and one another.
The most important of these was the Bulgarian Macedonian-Adrianople Revolutionary Committee (BMARC, SMARO from 1902) (an alternative version says that it consisted of the Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (MRO, TMORO from 1902)), under Gotse Delchev who in 1903 rebelled in the so-called Ilinden-Preobrazhenie Uprising, fighting for an autonomous or independent Macedonian state (before 1902 only Bulgarians could join, but afterwards, it invited any Macedonian or Odrinian, irrespective of nationality, to join together), and the Greek efforts from 1904 until 1908 (Greek Struggle for Macedonia). Diplomatic intervention by the European powers led to plans for an autonomous Macedonia under Ottoman rule.
It is often claimed that macédoine, the fruit or vegetable salad, was named after the area's very mixed population, however it seems more likely that it was inspired by the diversity of Alexander the Great's domains, as the term dates to France in the 18th century, when Macedonia's ethnic composition was not widely known.
Over the centuries Macedonia had become a multicultural region. The historical references mention Greeks, Bulgarians, Turks, Albanian, Gypsies, Jews and Vlachs. .From the the Middle Ages to 20th century the Slavspeaking population in Macedonia was indentified mostly as Bulgarian or Greek and occasionally as Serbian. During the period of Bulgarian National Revival many Bulgarians from these regions supported the struggle for creation of Bulgarian cultural educational and religious institutions, including Bulgarian Exarchate. Eventually, in the 20th century, 'Bulgarians' came to be understood as synonymous with 'Macedonian Slavs' and, eventually, 'ethnic Macedonians'. Krste Misirkov, a philologist and publicist, mostly known for his work "On the Macedonian Matters" (1903), heralded by Macedonians as one of the “founders of the Macedonian nation”, stated:
The restricted borders of the modern Greek state at its inception in 1830 disappointed the inhabitants of northern Greece (Epirus and Macedonia). Addressing these concerns in 1844, the Greek Prime Minister Kolettis addressed the constitutional assembly in Athens that "the kingdom of Greece is not Greece; it is only a part, the smallest and poorest, of Greece. The Greek is not only he who inhabits the kingdom, but also he who lives in Ioannina (Epirus), or Thessaloniki (Macedonia), or Serres (Macedonia), or Odrin (Thrace)" . He mentions cities and islands that were under Ottoman possession as composing the Great Idea (Greek: Μεγάλη Ιδέα) which meant the reconstruction of the classical Greek world or the revival of the Byzantine Empire. The important idea here is that for Greece, Macedonia was a region with large Greek populations expecting annexation to the new Greek state. At this time, the region which today is the Republic of Macedonia was known as the "fief (vilayet) of Skopje" .
The Congress of Berlin (1878) changed the Balkan map again. The treaty restored Macedonia and Thrace to the Ottoman Empire. Serbia, Romania and Montenegro were granted full independence, and some territorial expansion at the expense of the Ottoman Empire. Russia would maintain military advisors in Bulgaria and Eastern Rumelia until May 1879. Austria-Hungary was permitted to occupy Bosnia, Herzegovina and the Sanjak of Novi Pazar. The Congress of Berlin also forced Bulgaria, newly given autonomy by the 1878 Treaty of San Stefano, to return over half of its newly gained territory to the Ottoman Empire. This included Macedonia, a large part of which was given to Bulgaria, due to Russian pressure and the presence of significant numbers of Bulgarians and adherents to the Bulgarian Exarchate. The territorial losses dissatisfied Bulgaria; this fuelled the ambitions of many Bulgarian politicians for the following seventy years, who wanted to review the treaty - by peaceful or military means and to reunite all lands which they claimed had a Bulgarian majority. Besides, Serbia was now interested in the Macedonian lands, until then only Greece was Bulgaria's main contender, which after the addition of Thessaly to Greece in (1881) was bordering Macedonia. Thus, the Berlin Congress renewed the struggle for Turkey in Europe, including the so-called Macedonia region, rather than setting up a permanent regime. In the following years, all of the neighboring states struggled over Turkey in Europe; they were only kept at bay by their own restraints, the Ottoman Army and the territorial ambitions of the Great Powers in the region.
Serbian policy had a distinct anti-Bulgarian flavor, attempting to prevent the Bulgarian influencing the inhabitants of Macedonia. On the other hand, Bulgaria was using the power of its religious institutions (Bulgarian Exarchate established in 1870)to promote its language and make more people identify with Bulgaria. Greece, in addition, was in an advantageous position for protecting its interests through the influence of Patriarchate of Constantinople which traditionally sponsored Greek-language and Greek-culture schools also in villages with few Greeks. This put the Patriarchate in dispute with the Exarchate, which established schools with Bulgarian education. Indeed, belonging to one or another institution could define a person's national identity. Simply, if a person supported the Patriarchate they were regarded as Greek, whereas if they supported the Exarchate they were regarded as Bulgarian. Locally, however, villagers were not always able to express freely their association with one or the other institution as there were numerous armed groups trying to defend and/or expand the territory of each. Some were locally recruited and self-organized while others were sent and armed by the protecting states.
The aim of the adversaries, however, was not primarily to extend their influence over Macedonia but merely to prevent Macedonia succumbing to the influence of the other. This often violent attempt to persuade the people that they belonged to one ethnic group or another pushed some people to reject both. The severe pressure on the peaceful peasants of Macedonia worked against the plans of the Serbians and Bulgarians to make them adopt their ethnic idea and eventually a social divide became apparent. The British Ambassador in Belgrade in 1927 said: "At present the unfortunate Macedonian peasant is between the hammer and the anvil. One day 'comitadjis' come to his house and demand under threat lodging, food and money and the next day the gendarm hales him off to prison for having given them; the Macedonian is really a peaceable, fairly industrious agriculturist and if the (Serbian) government give him adequate protection, education, freedom from malaria and decent communications, there seems no reason why he should not become just as Serbian in sentiment as he was Bulgarian 10 years ago". As a result of this game of tug-of-war, the Slavs of Macedonia did not have any national identity. Moreover, when the imperialistic plans of the surrounding states made possible the division of Macedonia, some Macedonian intellectuals such as Misirkov mentioned the necessity of creating a Macedonian national identity which would distinguish the Macedonian Slavs from Bulgarians, Serbians or Greeks.
Baptizing Macedonian Slavs as Serbian or Bulgarian aimed therefore to justify these countries' territorial claims over Macedonia. The Greek side, with the assistance of the Patriarchate that was responsible for the schools, could more easily maintain control, because they were spreading Greek identity. For the very same reason the Bulgarians, when preparing the Exarchate's government (1871) included Macedonians in the assembly as "brothers" to prevent any ethnic diversification. On the other hand, the Serbs, unable to establish Serbian-speaking schools, used propaganda. Their main concern was to prevent the Slavic-speaking Macedonians from acquiring Bulgarian identity through concentrating on the myth of the ancient origins of the Macedonians and simultaneously by the classification of Bulgarians as Tatars and not as Slavs, emphasizing their 'Macedonian' characteristics as an intermediate stage between Serbs and Bulgarians. To sum up the Serbian propaganda attempted to inspire the Macedonians with a separate ethnic identity to diminish the Bulgarian influence. This choice was the 'Macedonian ethnicity'. The Bulgarians never accepted an ethnic diversity from the Slav Macedonians, giving geographic meaning to the term. In 1893 they established the VMRO (Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization) aiming to confront the Serbian and Greek action in Macedonia. VMRO hoped to answer the Macedonian question through a revolutionary movement, and so they instigated the Ilinden Uprising (1903) to release some Ottoman territory. Bulgaria used this to internationalize the Macedonian question. Ilinden changed Greece's stance which decided to take Para-military action. In order to protect the Greek Macedonians and Greek interests, Greece sent officers to train guerrillas and organize militias (Macedonian Struggle), known as makedonomahi (Macedonian fighters), essentially to fight the Bulgarians. After that it was obvious that the Macedonian question could be answered only with a war.
The rise of the Albanian and the Turkish nationalism after 1908, however, prompted Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria to bury their differences with regard to Macedonia and to form a joint coalition against the Ottoman Empire in 1912. Disregarding public opinion in Bulgaria, which was in support of the establishment of an autonomous Macedonian province under a Christian governor, the Bulgarian government entered a pre-war treaty with Serbia which divided the region into two parts. The part of Macedonia west and north of the line of partition was contested by both Serbia and Bulgaria and was subject to the arbitration of the Russian Tsar after the war. Serbia formally renounced any claims to the part of Macedonia south and east of the line, which was declared to be within the Bulgarian sphere of interest. The pre-treaty between Greece and Bulgaria, however, did not include any agreement on the division of the conquered territories - evidently both countries hoped to occupy as much territory as possible having their sights primarily set on Thessaloniki.
In the First Balkan War, Bulgaria, Serbia, Greece and Montenegro occupied almost all Ottoman-held territories in Europe. Bulgaria bore the brunt of the war fighting on the Thracian front against the main Ottoman forces. Both her war expenditures and casualties in the First Balkan War were higher than those of Serbia, Greece and Montenegro combined. Macedonia itself was occupied by Greek, Serbian and Bulgarian forces. The Ottoman Empire in the Treaty of London in May 1913 assigned the whole of Macedonia to the Balkan League, without, specifying the division of the region, in order to promote problems between the allies. Dissatisfied with the creation of an autonomous Albanian state, which denied her access to the Adriatic, Serbia asked for the suspension of the pre-war division treaty and demanded from Bulgaria greater territorial concessions in Macedonia. Later in May the same year, Greece and Serbia signed a secret treaty in Thessaloniki stipulating the division of Macedonia according to the existing lines of control. Both Serbia and Greece, as well as Bulgaria, started to prepare for a final war of partition.
In June 1913, Bulgarian Tsar Ferdinand, without consulting the government, and without any declaration of war, ordered Bulgarian troops to attack the Greek and Serbian troops in Macedonia, initiating the Second Balkan War. The Bulgarian army was in full retreat in all fronts. The Serbian army chose to stop its operations when achieved all its territorial goals and only then the Bulgarian army took a breath. During the last two days the Bulgarians managed to achieve a defensive victory against the advancing Greek army in the Kresna Gorge. However at the same time the Romanian army crossed the undefended northern border and easily advanced towards Sofia. Romania interfered in the war, in order to satisfy its territorial claims against Bulgaria. The Ottoman Empire also interfered, easily reassuming control of Eastern Thrace with Edirne. The Second Balkan War, also known as Inter-Ally War, left Bulgaria only with the Struma valley and a small part of Thrace with minor ports at the Aegean sea. Vardar Macedonia was incorporated into Serbia and thereafter referred to as South Serbia. Southern (Aegean) Macedonia was incorporated into Greece and thereafter was referred to as northern Greece. The region suffered heavily during the Second Balkan War. During its advance at the end of June, the Greek army set fire to the Bulgarian quarter of the town of Kilkis and over 160 villages around Kilkis and Serres driving some 50,000 refugees into Bulgaria proper. The Bulgarian army retaliated by burning the Greek quarter of Serres and by arming Muslims from the region of Drama which led to a massacre of Greek civilians.
In September 1915, the Greek government authorized the landing of the troops in Thessaloniki. In 1916 the pro-German King of Greece agreed with the Germans to allow military forces of the Central Powers to enter Greek Macedonia in order to attack Bulgarian forces in Thessaloniki. As a result, Bulgarian troops occupied the eastern part of Greek Macedonia, including the port of Kavala. The region was, however, restored to Greece following the victory of the Allies in 1918. After the destruction of the Greek Army in Asia Minor in 1922 Greece and Turkey exchanged most of Macedonia's Turkish minority and the Greek inhabitants of Thrace and Anatolia, as a result of which Aegean Macedonia experienced a large addition to its population and became overwhelmingly Greek in ethnic composition. Serbian-ruled Macedonia was incorporated into the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (later the Kingdom of Yugoslavia) in 1918. Yugoslav Macedonia was subsequently subjected to an intense process of "Serbianization" during the 1920s and 1930s.
During World War II the boundaries of the region shifted yet again. When the German forces occupied the area, most of Yugoslav Macedonia and part of Aegean Macedonia were transferred for administration to Bulgaria. During the Bulgarian administration of Eastern Greek Macedonia, some 100,000 Bulgarian refugees from the region were resettled there and perhaps as many Greeks were deported or fled to Greece. Western Aegean Macedonia was occupied by Italy, with the western parts of Yugoslav Macedonia being annexed to Italian-occupied Albania. The remainder of Greek Macedonia (including all of the coast) was occupied by Nazi Germany. One of the worst episodes of the Holocaust happened here when 60,000 Jews from Thessaloniki were deported to extermination camps in occupied Poland. Only a few thousand survived.
Macedonia was liberated in 1944, when the Red Army's advance in the Balkan Peninsula forced the German forces to retreat. The pre-war borders were restored under U.S. and British pressure because the Bulgarian government was insisting to keep its military units on Greek soil. The Bulgarian Macedonia returned fairly rapidly to normality, but the Bulgarian patriots in Yugoslav Macedonia underwent a process of ethnic cleansing by the Belgrade authorities, and Greek Macedonia was ravaged by the Greek Civil War, which broke out in December 1944 and did not end until October 1949.
After this civil war, a large number of former ELAS fighters who took refuge in communist Bulgaria and Yugoslavia and described themselves as "ethnic Macedonians" were prohibited from reestablishing to their former estates by the Greek authorities. Most of them were accused in Greece for crimes committed during the period of the German occupation.
The first Balkan War managed to liberate Balkans from Turks and settled the major issues except Macedonia. In the spring 1913 the Serbs and Greeks begun the 'Serbianization' and the 'Hellenization' of the parts in Macedonia they already controlled, while Bulgarians faced some difficulties against the Jews and the Turkish populations. Moreover, the possession of Thessalonica was a living dream for the Bulgarians that were preparing for a new war. For this, the Bulgarian troops had a secret order in June 1913 to launch surprise attacks on the Serbs. Greece and Serbia signed a previous bilateral defensive agreement (May 1913) . Consequently, Greece and Serbia decided to attack Bulgaria in its moment of maximum weakness, exhausted by its sacrifice the previous winter. Besides, they had to fight also the Romanians who were claim Bulgarian lands.
The treaty of Bucharest (August 1913) took off most of the Bulgarian conquests of the previous years. Large part of Macedonia became Southern Serbia, including the territory of what today is the Republic of Macedonia and Aegean Macedonia became Northern Greece. Greece almost doubled its territory and population size and its northern frontiers remain today, more or less the same since the Balkan Wars. However, when Serbia acquired 'Vardarska Banovina' (the present-day Republic of Macedonia), it launched having expansionist views aiming to descend to the Aegean, with Thessalonica as the highest ambition. However, Greece after the population exchange with Bulgaria, soon after its victory in the Balkan wars, managed to give national homogeneity in the Aegean and any remaining Slavic-speakers were absorbed.
Many volunteers from Macedonia joined Bulgarian army and participated in the battles against Bulgarian enemies in these wars - on the strenght of the Macedonian-Adrianopolitan Volunteer Corps and other units.
The situation in Serbian Macedonia changed after the Communist Revolution in Russia (1918-1919). According to Sfetas, Comintern was handling Macedonia as a matter of tactics, depending on the political circumstances. In early 1920s it supported the position for a single and independent Macedonia in a Balkan Soviet Democracy. Actually, the Soviets desired a common front of the Bulgarian communist agriculturists and the Bulgarian-Macedonian societies in order to destabilize the Balkan Peninsula. The Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO), under the protection of Comintern, promoted the idea of an independent Macedonia in a Federation of Balkan states, unifying all Macedonians. However, the possible participation of Bulgaria in a new war, on the Axis side, ended the Soviet support some years later.
Bulgaria was forced to join the Axis powers in 1941, when German troops prepared to invade Greece from Romania reached the Bulgarian borders and demanded permission to pass through Bulgarian territory. Threatened by direct military confrontation, Tsar Boris III had no choice but to join the fascist block, which officially happened on 1 March 1941. There was little popular opposition, since the Soviet Union was in a non-aggression pact with Germany.
On April 6, 1941, despite having officially joined the Axis Powers, the Bulgarian government maintained a course of military passivity during the initial stages of the invasion of Yugoslavia and the Battle of Greece. As German, Italian, and Hungarian troops crushed Yugoslavia and Greece, the Bulgarians remained on the side-lines. The Yugoslav government surrendered on April 17. The Greek government was to hold out until April 30. On April 20, the period of Bulgarian passivity ended. The Bulgarian Army entered the Aegean region. The goal was to gain an Aegean Sea outlet in Thrace and Eastern Macedonia and much of eastern Serbia. The so-called Vardar Banovina was divided between Bulgaria and Italians which occupied West Macedonia.
During the German occupation of Greece (1941-1944) the Greek Communist Party-KKE was the main resistance factor with its military branch EAM-ELAS (National Liberation Front). Although many members of EAM were Slavic-speaking, they had either Bulgarian, Greek or distinct Macedonian conscience. To take advantage of the situation KKE established SNOF with the cooperation of the Yugoslav leader Tito, who was ambitious enough to make plans for Greek Macedonia. For this he established the Anti-Fascistic Assembly for the National Liberation of Macedonia (ASNOM) giving an actual liberating character to the whole region of Macedonia. Besides, KKE was very positive to the option of a greater Macedonia, including the Greek region, since it realized that a victory in the Greek Civil War was utopic. Later EAM and SNOF disagreed in issues of policy and they finally crashed and the latter was expelled from Greece (1944).
The end of the War did not bring peace to Greece and a strenuous civil war between the Government forces and EAM broke out with about 50,000 casualties for both sides. The defeat of the Communists in 1949 forced their Slav-speaking members to either leave Greece or fully adopt Greek language and surnames. The slav minorities were discriminated against, and not even recognised as a minority. Since 1923 the only internationally recognized minority in Greece are the Muslims in Western Thrace.
Yugoslav Macedonia was the only region where Yugoslav communist leader Josip Broz Tito had not developed a Partisan movement because of the Bulgarian occupation of a large part of that area. To improve the situation, in 1943 the Communist Party of 'Macedonia' was established in Tetovo with the prospect that it would support the resistance against the Axis. In the meantime, the Bulgarians' violent repression led to loss of moral support from the civilian population. By the end of the war "a Macedonia national consciousness hardly existed beyond a general conviction, gained from bitter experience, that rule from Sofia was as unpalatable as that from Belgrade. But if there were no Macedonian nation there was a Communist Party of Macedonia, around which the People's Republic of Macedonia was built".
Tito thus separated Yugoslav Macedonia from Serbia after the war. It became a republic of the new federal Yugoslavia (as the Socialist Republic of Macedonia) in 1946, with its capital at Skopje. Tito also promoted the concept of a separate Macedonian nation, as a means of severing the ties of the Slav population of Yugoslav Macedonia with Bulgaria. Although the Macedonian language is very close to Bulgarian, the differences were deliberately emphasized and the region's historical figures were promoted as being uniquely Macedonian (rather than Serbian or Bulgarian). A separate Macedonian Orthodox Church was established, splitting off from the Serbian Orthodox Church, but it has not been recognized by any other Orthodox Church, including the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. The Communist Party sought to deter pro-Bulgarian sentiment, which was punished severely; convictions were still being handed down as late as 1991.
Tito had a number of reasons for doing this. First, as an ethnic Croat, he wanted to reduce Serbia's dominance in Yugoslavia; establishing a territory formerly considered Serbian as an equal to Serbia within Yugoslavia achieved this effect. Secondly, he wanted to sever the ties of the Macedonian Slav population with Bulgaria because recognition of that population as Bulgarian would have undermined the unity of the Yugoslav federation. Third of all, Tito sought to justify future Yugoslav claims towards the rest of Macedonia (Pirin and Aegean), in the name of the "liberation" of the region. The potential "Macedonian" state would remain as a constituent republic within Yugoslavia, and so Yugoslavia would manage to get access to the Aegean Sea.
Tito's designs on Macedonia were asserted as early as August, 1944, when in a proclamation he claimed that his goal was to reunify "all parts of Macedonia, divided in 1912 and 1913 by Balkan imperialists". To this end, he opened negotiations with Bulgaria for a new federal state, which would also probably have included Albania, and supported the Greek Communists in the Greek Civil War. The idea of reunification of all of Macedonia under Communist rule was abandoned as late as 1949 when the Greek Communists lost and Tito fell out with the Soviet Union and pro-Soviet Bulgaria.
Across the border in Greece, Slavophones were seen as a potentially disloyal "fifth column" within the Greek state by both the US and Greece, and their existence as a minority was officially denied. Greeks were resettled in the region many of whom emigrated (especially to Australia) along with many Greek-speaking natives, because of the hard economic conditions after the Second World War and the Greek Civil War. Although there was some liberalization between 1959 and 1967, the Greek military dictatorship re-imposed harsh restrictions. The situation gradually eased after Greece's return to democracy, although even as recently as the 1990s Greece has been criticised by international human rights activists for "harassing" Macedonian Slav political activists, who, nonetheless, are free to maintain their own political party (Rainbow). Elsewhere in Greek Macedonia, economic development after the war was brisk and the area rapidly became the most prosperous part of the region. The coast was heavily developed for tourism, particularly on the Halkidiki peninsula.
Under Georgi Dimitrov, Soviet loyalist and head of the Comintern, Bulgaria initially accepted the existence of a distinctive Macedonian identity. It had been agreed that Pirin Macedonia would join Yugoslav Macedonia and for this reason the population declared itself "Macedonian" in the 1946 census. This caused resentment and many people were imprisoned or interned in rural areas outside Macedonia. After Tito's split from the Soviet bloc this position was abandoned and the existence of a Macedonian nation or language was denied.
Attempts of Macedonian historians after the 1940s to claim a number of prominent figures of the 19th century Bulgarian cultural revival and armed resistance movement as Macedonians has caused ever since a bitter resentment in Sofia. Bulgaria has repeatedly accused the Republic of Macedonia of appropriating Bulgarian national heroes and symbols and of editing works of literature and historical documents so as to prove the existence of a Macedonian Slav consciousness before the 1940s. The publication in the Republic of Macedonia of the folk song collections 'Bulgarian Folk Songs' by the Miladinov Brothers and 'Songs of the Macedonian Bulgarians' by Serbian archaeologist Verkovic under the "politically correct" titles 'Collection' and 'Macedonian Folk Songs' are some of the examples quoted by the Bulgarians. The issue has soured the relations of Bulgaria with former Yugoslavia and later with the Republic of Macedonia for decades.
As communism fell throughout Eastern Europe in the late 20th century, Macedonia followed its other federation partners and declared its independence from Yugoslavia in late 1991. In 1991, the (then Socialist) Republic of Macedonia held a referendum on independence which produced an overwhelming majority in favor of independence. The referendum was boycotted by the ethnic Albanians, although they did create ethnic political parties and actively contributed in the Macedonian government, parliament etc. The republic seceded peacefully from the Yugoslav federation, declaring its independence as the Socialist Republic of Macedonia. Bulgaria was consequently the first country to officially recognize Republic of Macedonia's independence - as early as February 1992, followed by other countries as well. The new Macedonian constitution took effect November 20, 1991 and called for a system of government based on a parliamentary democracy. Kiro Gligorov became the first President of the new independent state, succeeded by Boris Trajkovski. In early January 2001 armed conflict took place between the ethnic Albanian National Liberation Army (UÇK) militant group and the Republic of Macedonia's security forces. The conflict partially ended with the signing of the Ohrid Framework Agreement by the government of the Republic of Macedonia and Albanian representatives on August 13, 2001 which provided for greater rights for Macedonian Albanian population. In January 2002, the Macedonian conflict ended when the amnesty was announced to Albanian irregulars and rebels. Occasional unrest continued throughout 2002.
A controversy exists in regard to whether or not any parts of the historic region of Macedonia are incorporated in the present-day Republic of Macedonia, as very little if any of the ancient Macedonian kingdom is. There is also controversy, however, with regard to the Slavic peoples who are concentrated in less than half of the region. They first arrived in the late 6th and early 7th centuries AD when Slavic-speaking populations overturned Macedonia's Greek ethnic composition. As a result, the appropriation by the "Republic of Macedonia" of what Greece held as its "Greek symbols", raised concerns in Greece as well as fuelling nationalist anger. This anger was reinforced by the legacy of the Civil War and the view in some quarters, that members of Greece's Slavic-speaking minority were pro-Yugoslavian and presented a danger to its borders. The status of the Republic of Macedonia became a heated political issue in Greece where demonstrations took place in Athens while one million Macedonian Greeks took to the streets in Thessaloniki in 1992, under the slogan: "Macedonia is Greek", referring to the name and ancient history of the region, not posing a territorial claim against their northern neighbor. Initially, the Greek government objected formally to any use of the name Macedonia (including any derivative names) and also to the use of symbols such as the Vergina Sun. On the other hand, also in 1992, demonstrations by more than 100,000 ethnic Slav Macedonians took place in Skopje, the capital of the Republic of Macedonia, over the failure to receive recognition and supporting the constitutional name of the country.
The controversy was not just nationalist, but it also played out in Greece's internal politics. The two leading Greek political parties, the ruling conservative New Democracy under Constantine Mitsotakis and the socialist PASOK under Andreas Papandreou, sought to outbid each other in whipping up nationalist sentiment and the long-term (rather than immediate) threat posed by the irredentist policies of Skopje. To complicate matters further, New Democracy itself was divided; the then prime minister, Mitsotakis, favored a compromise solution on the Macedonian question, while his foreign minister Adonis Samaras took a hard-line approach. The two eventually fell out and Samaras was sacked, with Mitsotakis reserving the foreign ministry for himself. He failed to reach an agreement on the Macedonian issue despite United Nations mediation; he fell from power in October 1993, largely as a result of Samaras causing the government's majority of one, to fall, in September 1993.
When Andreas Papandreou took power following the October 1993 elections, he established a "hard line" position on the issue. The United Nations recommended recognition of the "Republic of Macedonia" under the temporary name of the "former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" (or FYROM for short), which would be used internationally while the country continued to use "Republic of Macedonia" as its constitutional name. The United States and European Union (therefore, including Greece) agreed to this proposal and duly recognized the Republic of Macedonia. This was followed by new, though smaller demonstrations in Greek cities against what was termed a "betrayal" by Greece's allies. Papandreou supported and encouraged the demonstrations, boosting his own popularity by taking the "hard line" against the Republic of Macedonia. In February 1994, he imposed a total trade embargo on the country, with the exception of food, medicines and humanitarian aid. The effect on the Republic of Macedonia's economy was limited, namely because the real damage to its economy had been caused by the collapse of Yugoslavia and the loss of central European markets due to the war. Also, many Greeks broke the trade embargo by entering through Bulgaria. However, the embargo had bad impact on the Republic of Macedonia's economy as the country was cut-off from the port of Thessaloniki and became landlocked because of the UN embargo on Yugoslavia to the north, and the Greek embargo to the south. Later, the signing of the Interim accord between Greece and the Republic of Macedonia marked the increased cooperation between the two neighboring states. The blockade had a political cost for Greece, as there was little understanding or sympathy for the country's position, and exasperation over what was seen as Greek obstructionism from some of its European Union partners. Athens was criticized in some quarters for contributing to the rising tension in the Balkans, even though the wars in the former Yugoslavia were widely seen as having been triggered by the premature recognition of its successor republics, a move to which Greece had objected from the beginning . It later emerged that Greece had only agreed to the dissolution of Yugoslavia in return for EU solidarity on the Macedonian issue . In 1994, the European Commission took Greece to the European Court of Justice in an effort to overturn the embargo, but while the court provisionally ruled in Greece's favor, the embargo was lifted by Athens the following year before a final verdict was reached. This was for the "Republic of Macedonia" and Greece to enter into an "interim agreement" in which the Republic of Macedonia agreed to remove any implied territorial claims to the greater Macedonia region from its constitution and to drop the Vergina Sun from its flag. In return, Greece lifted the blockade.
Most of the countries have recognized the Republic of Macedonia under its constitutional name, notably the United States, the People's Republic of China and Russia, and also its neighbours Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Turkey etc, although as the country is referred in the UN only under the provisional reference the "former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia", the constitutional name is generally used only in bilateral relations and in relations where a state not recognizing the constitutional name is not a party.
Discussions continue over the Greek objection regarding the country's name, but without any resolution so far. The Greek government have linked progress on this issue to the Republic of Macedonia's accession to the European Union and NATO (for more on this, see Accession of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to the European Union).
There are several ethnic Macedonian organizations in Bulgaria: Traditional Macedonian Organization Ilinden, later renamed to IMRO independent - Ilinden, registered in 1992 at the Sofia City Court. Later, in 1998, the organization was registered as a public NGO. The United Macedonian Organization (UMO) - Ilinden is another organization. In 1990, the Blagoevgrad District Court refused to register this organization as some parts of the organization statute weren't in accordance with the Bulgarian Constitution. In October 1994 this association split up on three different factions. Later two wings were unified under the UMO Ilinden - PIRIN organization. In 1998 the European Commission of Human Rights gave admissibility to two out of five complaints of Macedonians from Pirin Macedonia. There is a newspaper published by the Macedonian organizations in Bulgaria: Narodna Volja (People's Will) which is printed in 2,500 copies.
Cases of harassment of organisations of the Bulgarians from Republic of Macedonia and activists have been reported in the Republic of Macedonia. In 2000 several teenagers threw smoke bombs at the conference of Bulgarian organization 'Radko' in Skopje causing panic and confusion among the delegates. The perpetrators were afterwards acclaimed by the press in Republic of Macedonia as national heroes. 'Radko' was later banned by the Macedonian Constitutional Court as separatist. The organization has continued its activity, though mostly in the cultural field.
In 2001 'Radko' issued in Skopje the original version of the folk song collection 'Bulgarian Folk Songs' by the Miladinov Brothers (issued under an edited name in the Republic of Macedonia and viewed as a collection of Slav Macedonian lyrics). The book triggered a wave of other publications, among which the memoirs of the Greek bishop of Kastoria, in which he talked about the Greek-Bulgarian church struggle at the beginning of the 20th century, as well the Report of the Carnegie Commission on the causes and conduct of the Balkan Wars from 1913. Neither of these addressed the ethnic Macedonian population of Macedonia as Macedonians but as Bulgarians. Being the first publications to question the official Macedonian position of the existence of a distinct Macedonian identity going back to the time of Alexander the Great (Macedonism), the books triggered a reaction of shock and disbelief in Macedonian public opinion. The scandal after the publication of 'Bulgarian Folk Songs' resulted in the sacking of the Macedonian Minister of Culture, Dimitar Dimitrov.
As of 2000, Bulgaria started to grant Bulgarian citizenship to members of the Bulgarian minorities in a number of countries, including the Republic of Macedonia. The vast majority of the applications have been from Macedonian citizens. As at May, 2004, some 14,000 Macedonians had applied for a Bulgarian citizenship on the grounds of Bulgarian origin and 4,000 of them had already received their Bulgarian passports. In June, 2004, the Macedonian state television announced with alarm that at least one member of every fourth household in the eastern part of the Republic of Macedonia had already received a Bulgarian passport or had at least applied for one. The last quoted number so far was of 63,000 Macedonians (the number has not been confirmed officially) by the Macedonian daily Vecher on April 5, 2005. In 2006 the former Macedonian Premier and chief of IMRO-DPMNE Ljubčo Georgievski became a Bulgarian citizen.
The rules governing good neighbourly relations agreed between Bulgaria and the Republic of Macedonia were set in the Joint Declaration of 22 February 1999 reaffirmed by a joint memorandum signed on January 22, 2008 in Sofia.