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Edmond Bouchie de Belle on the Macedonians, 1918!

Macedonia 1914-1918


Edmond Bouchie de Belle on the Macedonians

(Edmond Bouchie de Belle, born August 23, 1878, Doctor of Law, was a high financial official in Paris, advisor at the Ministry of Finances, and during W.W.I occupied a prominent position in the Headquarters of the French East Army in the Balkans. In its way, de Belle had the opportunity of spending a substantial period of time near the great bend in the River Crna, following the movement of the Army in the vicinity of lake Ostrovo, Lerin, Bitola, Prilip and finally Skopje, where he died on October 20, 1918. During his stay, de Belle wrote a book about Macedonia, which was printed posthumously in Paris under the title Le Macedoine et les Macedoniens in 1922. The book was awarded by the French Academy of Sciences.)

The Macedonian question is not a question of yesterday or today. Macedonia has had a
long past behind it, and it will not cease to interest Europe in the future. Europe has come
to know Macedonia mainly owing to two facts: one, its geographical position as a
crossroads of world routes -the first, from Belgrade and Novi Pazar through the Vardar
valley to Salonika, and the second, the ancient Via Egnatia from Durazzo to Salonika
again, while Salonika as Macedonia’s port and according to its importance does not lag
behind Constantinople or Suez. Salonika has a dominant position over the East
Mediterranean and the routes to Asia.
The second reason is: the population is different in nationality according to its origin and has long since been an object of the tactics of influence by the neighbouring Balkans
states, with the support of the Great Powers, the interests of which have been linked with
the situation in the Balkan countries. ..
Macedonia is populated by three groups of nationalities. One of them is the disputed
nationality of the Macedonian Slavs, or briefly, Macedonians, which comprise the core of
the rural population. Then follow three other nationalities which aim to dominate the
Macedonians -the Bulgarians, Serbs and Greeks -and still another three nationalities
detached from the dispute -the Wallachians, Turks and Jews. But none of these
nationalities populates a defined territory, but appears here and there throughout the
country .In all the fields of Macedonia there is a nationality of peasants with a Slav
language and of the Orthodox religion. The Bulgarians consider them as being their own
“in language and heart,” even citing the Greater Bulgaria, created by the Treaty of San
Stefano and the name “Bulgarians” under which the victims of the Treaty of Berlin fought
against Turkish oppression. The Serbs consider them as “Serbs” .-since Dusan’s state
formerly included “the whole of Macedonia,” according to the manuscripts surviving
Turkish subjugation, and since the language was allegedly “Old Serbian” and since the
Macedonians celebrated the family “slava” or Saint’s day. Finally come the Greeks,
according to whom neither the origin nor the language are of decisive significance, but
only the “spirit” and culture, which are allegedly Greek; just as no one can say, for
instance, that the French are not Latins, so, too, no one can say that the Macedonians are
not “Greeks.” It is obvious that the Macedonian Slavs are not Greeks. And in spite of the
fact that they bear some similarities in their character, faith and language with the
Bulgarians and the Serbs, they differ from both. You may ask a peasant from the district of Ostrovo, or Bitola, what he feels himself to be, and in nine instances out of ten, he will
answer you -Macedonian! Accordingly, the Slav population of Macedonia should be
considered as a separate nationality, the name of which would be Macedonian Slavs, or
briefly, Macedonians …

Taken from Edmond Bouchie de Belle, La Macedoine et les Macedoniens, Paris, 1922, 80, IV, 303.

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