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Rene Picard: The Autonomy of Macedonia, 1916!

Macedonia 1914-1918

July 20, 1916

Rene Picard: The Autonomy of Macedonia

The idea of Macedonian autonomy is familiar to all those who are acquainted with Balkan
history and politics. If we asked the Christians of Macedonia they would answer that
autonomy was the most desirable solution for them.
There is and, in fact, there has always been a Macedonian spirit in Macedonia.
Geographically, Macedonia has its own unity. Its borders are the following: to the south -
Mt Olympus, the mountains on the north bank of the River.. Bistrica, Lake Prespa and
Lake Ohrid; to the west -the Drim from Debar; to the north-west and north -the Sar
Mountains, the highlands north of Skopje, the defile of Kumanovo, the mountains that
mark the Serbo-Bulgarian frontier of before 1912; to the east -the Rhodope Mountains.
The borderline with Thrace on this side is not clear. The regions of Drama and Kavalla can either be adjoined to Macedonia or separated from it; the plain of Drama is populated
mostly by Turks; the town of Kavalla, like all the ports, has a strong Greek colony. To the
south, the Chalcidice Peninsula is geographically Macedonian, but ethnographically
Greek; the line of lakes separates it by a natural border from the rest of Macedonia.
Within these borders Macedonia has the natural basins of Skopje, Bitola, Veles, Serez,
Drama and Salonika with the mountains that separate them and the narrow valleys that
unite them. The Christian population in the country side is Slav. It is known to be neither
quite Bulgarian, although it is closer to the Bulgarians, nor quite Serbian. The Bulgarians
themselves admit that the Macedonians differ from the other Bulgarians: they possess a
more lively spirit, are more fond of politics and intrigue, more inclined to eloquence and
the arts, also more cunning; in a word, they are a little Hellenized. The Macedonian
politicians in Sofia are feared; many Bulgarians of old Bulgaria would be glad to see the
Macedonian Bulgarians return to Macedonia. They accuse them of taking everything away
from them, their jobs and privileges. Many Balkan people think that there will be no
stability in the Balkans until Macedonian autonomy comes into existence. In any case, it is likely that the creation of Macedonian autonomy would quickly develop a Macedonian
spirit and patriotism.
The autonomy of Macedonia and the constitution of a Balkan federation would have most
ardent advocates among the citizens of Salonika, especially among the majority of the
Jewish population. The annexation to Greece caused their ruin. Salonika was a particularly important port from, which the Austro-German products brought from Triest were distributed all over the peninsula; the new border, having separated Salonika from its background, delivered a terrible blow to it. The Greeks, who already have other ports, are not able to support Salonika. The geographical position of Salonika at the debouchement of the great natural route from the Danube to the Aegean Sea via Nish has always made this port to be of primary economic importance, and this economic importance will ensure it an equivalent degree of political importance. One can be certain that either there will never be a Balkan federation, or Salonika will be its port as well a sits intellectual and economic centre. One can very well see Salonika in the future as a free city, the capital of autonomous Macedonia and the centre of the Balkan federation.
To hold such an important point, although provisionally and awaiting the settlement of all the Balkan questions and the strengthening of the new status of the peninsula, would be of considerable advantage for the allies. They would have a means of pressure upon their friends of all degrees, as well as upon their enemies. We shall have many friends after our victory, and at that moment we shall have to take precautions against them.
What will become of Macedonia? This is the whole problem of the Balkans.

Taken from Les archives du Ministere des affiars etrangeres (Paris). Guerre 1914-1918, Balkans, Dossier generale, pages 158-165.

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