How did the Slav term and Macedonians come to be together?

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  • I of Macedon
    • Sep 2008
    • 222

    How did the Slav term and Macedonians come to be together?

    “Slav” it seems was coined by foreigners for the first time in the 6-7th century (Byzantine era) for making sense of the political and tribal changes and many raids that were occurring. The first time it seems that the so called Slavs actually identified themselves as “Slavs” was in the 12th century Russian Primary Chronicle thus strangely enough by the Russians and not the people living in and around the Balkans for which this name was imposed, even though our written language started to develop in the 9th century in and around the Balkans. Strange they didn’t write about their Slav identity sooner.

    But how did the amalgamation of Macedonian and Slav occur? It seems like it may have been due to many things, the obvious one would be the language, then further influence by propaganda, the Schools and the church and another could perhaps be due to the sense of unity

    But first;

    In Theophan’s daily log of the campaign of Nicephores Phokas, in 961AD in Crete said that the army consisted of Thracians, Macedonians and Sclauisyans (Slavs).

    Constantine VII Porphyrogenities (913-959) described the administrative units (themes) in his work “De thematibus” (approx 934AD). Wrote about the Slavs from the theme of Strymon, and also named Macedonians as the inhabitants of this region.

    From the period of Isacus I Comnenus (mid 11th century). During his reign is brother Ioannis Comnenus was installed as ruler of the European part of the empire. For his good rule over the Balkan peoples his contemporary Nicephores Vrienius wrote: “When Ioannis obtained the rule of the west, as we have already said, for his deed he left indelible memories among the Thracians, Macedonians, Illyrians and Slavs.

    Byzantine historian Anna Comnena (early 12th century), in her work the “Alexiad,” she wrote: “On each side of the mountain (Balkans) live various peoples. On the northern side are the Dacians and Thracians, and on the southern side are the Thracians and the Macedonians” (Anna Comnena,: “The Alexiad,” Book XIV, 8)

    Another question arises that is; did the Macedonian in the 19th century Ottoman period if not before (also during the Ottoman period) have minimal contact with the outside for what ever reason - perhaps some sort of suppression? Therefore this may have further agitated the problems Macedonians face.


    Bosnian folklorist Stefan Verkovich (19th century) wrote: Until 1860, not only here in Serbia, but also the Bulgarians themselves were unaware that there were Slavs living in Macedonia (Macedonian Folklore, Skopje 1985 page 348)
    Victor Berard on the Macedonians....Until recently France did not know the Macedonians. They were Thracian, Peons, Sclavins for us, a wild and almost a mythical people, that lived somewhere at the bottom of some unknown land for us. We either did not know them or despised them, since we heard of them from the hateful notes of the ancient and modern Greeks... La Revue de Paris, Juin 1903.

    In the life of Stiepan Verkovich (1821-1894), page 266 Croatian historian Liubisha Doklestich wrote: “In the autumn of 1858, Vuk Karadzhich through J. Sharafich requested Verkovich to send him some ethnographic data about Macedonia, which was almost completely unknown to him.

    Later in the same work Doklestich wrote in the 19th century “In 1892 Verkovich began to systematically engage in something else. This was the collecting of geographic and ethno-demographic data about Macedonia…because this information about Macedonia was unknown to the European public.”

    Another question arises; was this the start of the long period even today where reports were being written (by non ottoman officials) that to this day many find highly confusing, as some reports would state that in Macedonia the majority are Bulgarians but no such Macedonians mentioned. Alternatively other reports state the Majority are Macedonians, and other reports Bulgarians, Serbians and Greeks but no Macedonians, and other reports Macedonian Slavs.



    Bulgarian statesman Dimitar Rizov on his nationality ....In the golden months of the successful beginning of the war against the Turks, he spoke to me as a convinced Yugoslav (South Slav). He explained to me, I being a Croat, the real situation of matters in Macedonia and said that it was shame that the first free Slav state had not been founded in Macedonia, which would equally attract to union the Bulgarians and the Serbs, and would be a bond and not a cause of discord between the Serbs and the Bulgarians...He told me that the Macedonians, to tell the objective truth, were neither Bulgarians nor Serbs, but Macedonian Slavs who spoke in their own individual Macedonian language or dialect. ..."Our people", he said, "were only 'Macedonian Christians,' and then, when Greek propaganda developed they become 'Macedonian Christian Slavs'. It was all the same to us which Christian country would help us to free ourselves from the Turks. I was born in Bitola. There were several grammar-schools in Bitola: Turkish, Greek, Serbian and Bulgarian. It was all the same to us… Ivan Meshtrovic, famous Croatian sculptor, Uspomene na politichke ljude i dogagjaje. Zagreb 1969, pp. 25-26, 39.
    Therefore did the Macedonians start referring to themselves specifically (and not by foreigners) as Slavs once Greek propaganda started to spread approximately after the establishment of the Kingdom of Greece, and then further influenced by Serbia, Bulgaria and Russian influence?


    To the Editor of "Makedonija" newspaper: ...The Greeks and the greacomans have met the newspaper with sorrow, since they always tried to hellenize the Macedonians, destroying also the Archibishopric of Ohrid -The Spark of Our Future. Yet, however hard they have tried to stop us from making progress, they could not entirely uproot the feelings of the Macedonians that they are Macedonians. T.I. Kusev, Makedonija, Istanbul, Nbr. I (1/28/1867)

    Education in Veles ....Archbishop Antim declared to his peers that all peoples have been enlightened by the Greeks and so it is necessary that Greek should be taught in the schools of Veles, and not Macedonian, since the children alrady know their own language from their home... J. N. Iz Velesa u Makedoniji: Srbski Dnevnik, nbr. 44 (1858) (according to Branislav Vraneshevic, Vojvodinska javnost, p. 320-321).

    February 1874

    A letter from P.R. Slaveykov to the Bulgarian Exarch: Your Grace, I arrived in Salonika on the evening of the 14th of last month (January 1874). I immediately went to meet all the important local people and some others from the other Macedonian towns. My aim was to gather information as son as possible on what was to be necessary for the succes of the mission with which you had entrusted me. I first met Father Averkij Zografski, and the following day Father Petar Dimitrov as well, the local president of the community. I may inform you, Your Grace, that the wind from here, from Salonika, blows and scatters to all sides. These two clergyman, to my mind, are the leaders of the movement fot the restoration of the Archbishopric of Ohrid, although one should not neglect Ohrid and to certain extent Bitola, Veles and Skopje either. Now, as then or twenty years ago, we are dealing with the Macedonian question. In talks with few Macedonian "patriots" I have understood that this movement, which had been only bare words till a few years ago, is now clear and precise thought - "The Macedonians are not Bulgarians" and they persistently strive, regardless of the price, to obtain a separate church of their own. … A general impression is that the local people think that the Macedonians have been done a great harm with the settlement of the church question in favor of the Danubian and Thracian Bulgarians. This discontent has already grown into distrust of the Exarchate and its higher echelons. And there is an attitude formed that the local Macedonian dialect should be declared a literary language and a Macedonian hierarchy established.

    What do we therefore find; Macedonians seem to have specifically began to refer to themselves as Slavs it seems after Greek propaganda began to eventuate (please correct me if I’m wrong or I mist something) and then further established through Bulgarian, Serbian, Russian propaganda and not to mention the establishment of schools and churches throughout Macedonia. And these places may also have been seen as places to avoid turkish oppression at least they thought.

    One may however argue that the Macedonians may have began to express themselves as Slavs simply due to the fact that they saw themselves closer to Serbians and Bulgarians through the similarity of language, which was obviously different from Greeks and thus wanted to distance themselves from persistent Greek influence.

    Also we know that the Russians in the 12th century first referenced themselves as Slavs, thus Russian influence and the expansion of the Russian Empire may also be the cause for the “Slavic unity and Slavic marking” among other things. Also a unity which would have been shared not necessarily through blood ties but perhaps again through language, and maybe some affinity with each others culture and perhaps also through the prolonged history of Slavery (Societas Christiana Principle) and through the Ottoman era.

    What we may know for sure however is that it seems that the Slavic notion doesn’t present one definitive answer as to how, why or when But may more likely be an amalgamation of many factors that simply doesn’t present it self as black and white as people would hope. Not even the traditional so called “Great Slav Migration theory” helps find definitive answers but instead raises unfounded assumptions and eyebrows due to the simple notion of extremely lacking and basic evidences including archaeology, linguistics and genetics, even some conflicting literary readings that can be interpreted any number of ways.

    NOTE: If I may have mist any important historical information about the Macedonians identifying themselves specifically as Slavs let me know.
    No need to sit in the shade, because we stand under our own sun
  • Risto the Great
    Senior Member
    • Sep 2008
    • 15660

    Great piece IoM.
    I believe the notion of linking Macedonians with the term Slav has more bad connotations than good. Which is a shame. It is a modern attempt to somehow dilute our identity. By casting a net on Macedonians and calling us Slavs, our antagonists are suggesting that we are not worthy of any historical claims on our own land. And that by calling us Slavs instead of Macedonians, it really means we are not a real ethnicity .... which is stupid and yet correct, the reason why we do not refer to ourselves as such is because we know the limitations of such a descriptor. There is no way that cultural/ethnic identifiers can be attributed to "Slavs". Aside from "words" (I will not say language), there is very little that links us.

    I defy anyone to prove otherwise.

    I should also add that whilst, as a Macedonian, I do not feel any meaningful links to Russians etc. I have noticed a growing attraction to 6ft slender young female ones. I hope this does not place my ethnicity (or marriage) in jeopardy.
    Risto the Great
    "Holding my breath for the revolution."

    Hey, I wrote a bestseller. Check it out: