Macedonia - Scattered Heritage

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  • Soldier of Macedon
    Senior Member
    • Sep 2008
    • 13675

    Macedonia - Scattered Heritage

    This was an interesting read:

    Nove Cvetanoski
    Scattered heritage
    Whether abundant or scarce, cultural heritage is in fact cultural wealth, as it holds great historical, artistic or spiritual value. We can think of our cultural heritage as being abundant if we have abundant knowledge of it. Our sense of a rich cultural past will be as strong, and as present, as the insight we have into it. This insight, though, is closely related to the evidence we have at our disposal.

    For most of its history, Macedonia has been at a crossroad of civilisations. Therefore it is inevitable that its territory should be rich with historical, ancient cultural and civilisational testimonies. Despite that advantage, there have been times when specific aspects of the Macedonian state (i.e. its non-continuity and incomplete institutions) resulted in a neglect of cultural and civilisational treasures, which had been created on Macedonia's territory throughout centuries.

    During its history, Macedonia has had many conquerors and foreign emissaries who destroyed, and robbed the land of, anything that was of value. Historical documents, especially those that refer to more recent times, can confirm that those people proved to be raiders of catastrophic proportions, doing much harm to the country's cultural heritage.

    Hence, the most valuable medieval manuscripts and books, as well as the most beautiful icons and archaeological objects, are to be found today in foreign museum collections. Priceless manuscripts and books crafted and illuminated with exquisite ornaments in the Macedonian medieval literary centres, as well as valuable icons created by master artists during the lifetime of the unsurpassed Michelangelo and Da Vinci, have been taken by raiders to their own countries, or have been sold into other countries. In consequence, today they are jealously kept far from both the public and from Macedonian scholars. Macedonian scholars, therefore, don't have enough information on everything that was stolen and taken away – but the existing data is shocking nonetheless.

    What was taken away in this manner from Macedonia cannot be estimated in numbers denoting financial worth. The value of cultural heritage isn’t measured thus, but just to illustrate that aspect as well, here's a comparison:

    A single old parchment sheet will fetch astronomically high sums (hundreds of thousands of dollars) in auction houses or on the black market. Macedonia has been robbed of hundreds of such manuscripts, i.e. tens of thousands of parchment sheets, which are now being kept in foreign libraries, museums and private collections.

    Or consider this: In the early 1990's, Moscow's "Vladimir Ilich Lenin" State Library asked our country for an insurance policy to exhibit some of its many Macedonian manuscripts. Unfortunately, our country couldn't afford the policy, since the Russian library estimated the fifteen Macedonian manuscripts in question were worth around 70 million dollars!

    Another example: In 1998, both the Bulgarian and the Macedonian public were intrigued when information was published about valuable Macedonian antiques and several relics being kept in Bulgaria. Among them was the Ohrid Archbishops' crown. For half a century, the exact location of the crown had been a mystery. Announcing its location, and explaining that it had been hidden because of its high value, the Sofia National History Museum's director made the evaluation that the precious stones embedded in the crown alone are worth around 20 million dollars today.

    The valuable objects described above are just a small fraction of the treasures that have been taken out of Macedonia. It would take many volumes just to record everything that foreign emissaries destroyed or scattered. We can point out and list only the most valuable plundered artefacts, particularly if we bear in mind that information on many valuable objects isn't available – that is, they are being kept in the coffers of some neighbouring and European countries to this day.

    Throughout all history, especially from the early 19th century to World War II, Macedonia's cultural heritage was mercilessly demolished, pilfered, and scattered. The damage to it was catastrophic, movable heritage suffering in particular.

    In this publication we will present only the most important information relevant to the destruction, theft and scattering of all types of cultural heritage (handwritten, archaeological, ethnological, sacred). This study is the first in-depth attempt to treat the entire problem of the destruction and dispersal of all types of Macedonia's cultural heritage. (This subject, until now, has never been a topic of any scientific, institutional or journalistic studies.) An overview of this kind can never be all-inclusive, because many acts of theft and destruction go unrecorded or because information is withheld by the countries who have received the artefacts. But we shall attempt to examine: How Macedonia's movable cultural heritage was destroyed and by whom, how it was stolen, where it was taken, and where it is today, i.e. to list several key treasures from Macedonia's territory and the foreign museums, libraries and collections in possession of these items.

    At present, Macedonian scholars and Macedonian institutions responsible for the care for our cultural heritage don't have information on everything that's been destroyed or carried away from the territory of Macedonia. It's impossible to obtain a complete account as well, since often the destroyers' and the robbers' traces have been erased.

    Furthermore, even those pieces that are today in foreign treasuries aren't very accessible to the public or to Macedonian researchers. Even when there are Macedonian items being exhibited their origin is concealed; that is, only the title (the name of the item) is cited, and possibly the location where it was found (if it is an archaeological object), but the country of origin is never stated, even if the archaeological site is mentioned.

    Great difficulties notwithstanding, Macedonian researchers have gathered a solid amount of data about the looted movable cultural heritage, and the information shows that the greatest damage has been done to the written heritage, i.e. the medieval manuscripts.

    What does this information reveal?

    And why were handwritten materials being stolen most often?

    Old books and manuscripts are an important part of Macedonia's cultural heritage because of the country's ecclesiastic literary and scriptorial traditions, as well as Macedonia's significant role in the history of pan-Slavic literacy. In the Middle Ages, there were several large literary centres and scriptoriums (mainly in monasteries) where—particularly during foreign, non-Christian rule—spirituality, enlightenment and culture were concentrated. Cultural heritage originating in the Middle Ages is predominantly religious (starting with the work of St. Clement and his so-called Ohrid Literary School, there were gospels, epistles, triodions, octoechoses, books of hours, prayerbooks, and hagiographies being translated, as well as many other texts intended for Christian service.) Despite the religious nature of the manuscripts (of course, literary writing was also progressing), the handwritten texts are especially important because of their earliest usage of the first Slavic alphabet – the Glagolitic alphabet (which was used in Macedonia ever since its creation at the end of the 9th to the end of the 11th century). These works are also important for studying the development of the Slavic literary languages, which have historically been differentiated from the church-Slavic language that was the vernacular in Macedonia. Later, these manuscripts became especially interesting to devotees of Slavic romanticism and to pioneers of Slavistics.

    Precisely because Macedonia was the keystone regarding the beginnings of literacy and the tradition of Enlightenment, when Slavistics as a science began to develop in Europe in the middle of the 19th century many collectors and experts in handwritten cultural and historical records set out towards Macedonia to collect manuscripts and books. Most of those collected manuscripts and books are to be found today in several European cities (in Belgrade, Zagreb, Moscow, Odessa, St. Petersburg, Sofia, Plovdiv, Krakow, Istanbul, Vatican, Bologna, Munich, Paris, London…), while only a small number of them are saved in the Republic of Macedonia (chiefly manuscripts and old books that were discovered after World War II). Despite the merciless ravage and plunder of manuscripts that went on for centuries, there are still some left in Macedonia. This evidence points to the fact that there used to be a rich literary heritage here and the whirlwind of history could not destroy everything and could not take away everything that the Macedonian people created.

    According to research done by Macedonian archaeographists and science institutes, around 700 manuscripts and books created from the end of the 10th century to the beginning of the 18th century are today in the possession of foreign libraries and museums. They have been directly or indirectly recorded – via catalogues and descriptions or references in literature. Thus, we have grounds to assume that in libraries, museums and archives throughout Europe there are even many more manuscripts and old books kept in secrecy. Even so, there are more than 400 manuscripts and books in Macedonia today – most of which were discovered and catalogued during the last two decades of the 20th century.

    As a country with the oldest written evidence of Slavic language, i.e. of the oldest Glagolitic epigraphs, Macedonia has none of the oldest Glagolitic manuscripts, although seven of the nine oldest have been created in Macedonia: The Zographian, Mariian and the Aseman gospels, the Sinai psalter, the Sinai prayerbook, the Bitola gospel, and the Macedonian Glagolitic papers. They have been discovered at Mt. Sinai, Mt. Athos, Jerusalem, or in Ohrid, but all are today outside of Macedonia's borders. Some of the oldest literary (Glagolitic) records are the Ohrid Glagolitic papers and the Bojanic palimpsest. Furthermore, letters, words or texts written in the Glagolitic alphabet were recorded on some of the oldest Cyrillic texts (manuscripts): the Macedonian Cyrillic paper, the Resen fragment of a triodion, the Ohrid epistle, the Bitola triodion, the Grigorovič parable book, the Šafaric triodion, the Orbel triodion, the Argir triodion, the Bolognese psalter, the Bitola selective octoechos etc.

    The oldest and most valuable manuscripts are to be found outside of Macedonia, however. According to their dates of origin, the following manuscripts have been saved: Nine Glagolitic manuscripts and four fragments in Cyrillics from the end of the 10th century and from the 11th century (all of them are in foreign libraries today!); around fifteen manuscripts dating from the 12th century, more than a hundred from the 13th century; around 220 from the 14th century; around 120 from the 15th century, and around 170 old Macedonian manuscripts from the 16th century. Macedonian scholars have collected all of these manuscripts' signature numbers by which they are catalogued in libraries and museums. Even so, these works represent only a small part of Macedonian manuscripts taken away to other countries.

    When one takes into account the data about the damage done to Macedonian cultural heritage, including the handwritten heritage, one will get the impression that in the past everyone who could do so destroyed and robbed – from conquerors to passers-by: collectors, researchers, adventurers and other interested persons. After such crusades of collecting and destruction, it can be concluded that the pieces left behind in Macedonia have been saved from ruin largely by chance.

    Destruction of Macedonian manuscripts began ever since the downfall of Samoil's state, during the two centuries of Byzantine rule, when the Byzantine government and church wrought havoc on anything that was Slavic in Macedonia, i.e. when via the Hellenic assimilation of Slavic culture and learning, the manuscripts were destroyed. The raiding continued even during the Bogomilism period, and then later during Ottoman rule when Moslem religion was established on the territory of Macedonia. Christian educational, literary and spiritual activities were again suppressed, forcing learned people to withdraw and continue their work inside monastery walls. Precisely during those long, dark Middle Ages of Macedonia's history, in some Macedonian monasteries and churches, as a result of the active and abundant religious, edifying and literary activities, rich handwritten monastery collections were created. Among them, historic literature references the collections of the Lesnovo, Markov, Slepče, Bigorski, and the Lešok monasteries as some of the greatest examples. Between the Ottoman rule and then, there was more destruction than theft. But after the creation of the first independent Balkan states, especially the Serbian and the Bulgarian ones, when no-one prevented stealing of heritage, the biggest theft of manuscripts and other Macedonian antiques occurred.

    During the 18th and 19th centuries, particularly during the period when the first shoots of Macedonian Renaissance emerged, many esteemed Macedonian citizens (among which was J. H. Konstantinov – Džinot) began developing collections of their own. The Macedonian monastery and church collections, in particular, were the main target of manuscript collectors coming from other countries, predominantly from Russia. The most prominent collectors were Victor I. Grigorovič, Stefan I. Verković, Antun Mihanović¸ G. Ilinsky, A. Gilferding, Polichronius A. Sirku, Rudolph Gutovsky, A. K'nčev.

    In addition to collectors who were coming from other countries, some esteemed Macedonian inhabitants, too, collected (and, unfortunately, sold) manuscripts. Jordan Hadži Konstantinov – Džinot dispatched manuscripts to the Bulgarian Exarchy in Istanbul and Sofia, and later to the Serbian Learned Society in Belgrade. Near the end of his life, he sold a collection of 36 valuable manuscripts to the National Library in Belgrade. During the 19th century, Dimitar Miladinov also collected manuscripts, dispatching them to the Istanbul "St. Stefan" church and to the Society of Slavic Literature in Belgrade. Information on some manuscripts in foreign libraries and museums gives us the names of several suppliers. Among them, the most frequently mentioned are Janoš Aleksievik from Veles (who in 1867 alone dispatched 26 parchment manuscripts to Belgrade), the professor Lazar Duma from Bitola (who collected for the Serbian Learned Society), whereas the National Library in Sofia has recorded as the most frequent suppliers (i.e. traders) Vasil Ikonomov from Lazaropole and Eftim Sprostranov from Ohrid.

    Throughout Macedonia's past there have been more destroyers than collectors of handwritten and other types of movable cultural heritage. A part of what was gathered by the collectors was afterwards given away or sold to libraries in the neighbouring countries and in Europe. Some of it is still in their possession, but a large part of Macedonia's heritage has been irretrievably destroyed.

    The history of the treatment of manuscripts in mid-19th century Macedonia is staggering. We have insight into it from data recorded by Jordan Hadži Konstantinov – Džinot. He visited almost all monasteries and churches in Macedonia and wrote about it in [the newspaper] "Tzarigradski Vestnik". According to his research, in the Markov monastery St. Dimitrija in the vicinity of Skopje, for instance, there were twenty loads of books; in the St. Pantheleimon monastery in the Nerezi village there were more than thirty loads; in the St. Nikola monastery there were ten loads. But, as he says, they were burnt, torn apart, and scattered by careless monks. There were also many manuscripts in the St. Bogorodica Pčinjska monastery, but those the monks burnt or threw away into the river. Then, in the Matejče monastery until the year 1848 there were ten loads of manuscripts, which according to Džinot were later destroyed by Arnaouts. In Treskavec he recorded a library of 20 loads, in St. Jovan the Baptist, near Veles (in 1851) he recorded ten loads, in St. Nikola in Moklište there were 20, in the St. Georgi monastery at Crna Reka – 50 loads of manuscripts, in the Lesnovo monastery there were more than 50 loads. In 1855, however, he found only ten loads of manuscripts. In the village of Bukovo, near Bitola, in the same year there were more than 20 loads, but as Džinot says, all of them were destroyed by a Vlach priest. Džinot wrote in "Tzarigradski Vestnik" that during this period the biggest number of manuscripts could be found in Ohrid and the vicinity, but even there some monks "not speaking our language" destroyed them, sometimes even by throwing them into the lake.

    Džinot estimated that Macedonia was brimming with "millions of Slavic relics written by hand on parchment". In 1854, he wrote: "Had we gathered the ancient Slavic handwritten books in our Macedonia 35 years ago and had we put them into a book archive, now we would have had around 150.000 manuscripts". Not many traces of that treasure remain today. A few hundred have been fortuitously saved in Macedonia or at Mt. Athos, Jerusalem, Sinai, i.e. Russia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Ukraine, the Czech Republic, Poland, Italy, France, Germany, Great Britain, Turkey, Greece and other countries. There are manuscripts in some foreign libraries today that were sold by Džinot himself (!).

    What was saved in Macedonia is only a small part of its former abundant handwritten treasures; instead, many significant Macedonian documents are today to be found abroad. These foreign collectors most often do not acknowledge it, since their gains were ill-gotten, but facts are facts...

    In the 1840s, the Croatian Antun Mihanović was an Austrian consul in Salonica. Besides his consul duties, he had another passion – he collected old Macedonian manuscripts, and in order to do it he travelled all over Macedonia, also visiting the Mt. Athos monasteries. He was the first person to systematically collect old manuscripts throughout Macedonia, to urge people to give them away as gifts, to borrow them or to buy them. Jordan Hadži Konstantinov – Džinot wrote in "Tzarigradski Vestnik" (issue no. 208, on 1/1/1855) that Mihanović took from the Lesnovo monastery alone three loads of manuscripts in 1842. After he had taken them, someone instructed the people from Kratovo to ask for the manuscripts back, so they complained about it to Avzi-pasha in Skopje. Nonetheless, Mihanović managed to keep 17 manuscripts, whereas the others were never returned to the Lesnovo monastery, but were scattered across Skopje. Word spread that Mihanović paid for manuscripts well, so people sought him in Salonica to sell manuscripts to him.

    After Mihanović's death in 1861, his heirs sold his manuscript collection to the bishop Juraj Strossmayer, who then donated the manuscripts to the Zagreb academy, today's Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts (formerly known as the Yugoslav Academy of Sciences and Arts). No historical sources have been found until now that would reveal the fate of every manuscript that Mihanović took away from Macedonia. However, the ones that were saved are in the CASA archive today, as a collection comprising 38 Macedonian manuscripts (10 of them are Lesnovo manuscripts). The more significant manuscripts from Mihanović's collection are: the selective gospel of priest Jovan dating from the end of the 12th or the beginning of the 13th century; the selective gospel of Radomir, from the mid-13th century, which belongs to the Kratovo literary school; the tetragospel of Bogdan, the Vranešec epistle and an octoechos (called the Mihanović octoechos, consisting of 112 parchment sheets) – all dating from the 13th century; the Ilovica "krmčija" from 1263 (which contains entries from Skopje and from the Markov monastery). The collection also includes seven manuscripts dating from the 14th century, among which is the Mihanović Macedonian gospel (containing 146 parchment sheets and 11 page fragments). In fact, the manuscripts in the CASA collection originate mainly from the Lesnovo, the Prohor Pčinjski and the Markov monasteries, as well as from several Mt. Athos monasteries.

    In the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts in Zagreb there is another, larger and more significant, collection of Macedonian manuscripts, which were gathered by the Bosnian ethnologist, archaeologist and folklorist Stefan I. Verković. He was involved in secret Serbian propaganda in South Serbia, Albania and Macedonia, and from 1850 to 1875 he was a Serbian secret agent in Macedonia. His agent duties were veiled mostly by his activity of collecting folklore material, but he also collected old manuscripts from the monastery and church libraries throughout Macedonia. He founded an antiques shop in 1857 in Ceres and developed the Macedonian manuscripts trade. In addition to dispatching some to the Society of Slavic Literature in Belgrade, Verković sold manuscripts in Russia and Bulgaria as well, keeping some for himself. Today in the National Library in St. Petersburg alone there are 71 manuscripts that he collected.

    Slavic manuscripts of Orthodox provenience, i.e. Macedonian manuscripts that Verković had collected, also turned up in Catholic Croatia. In his collection at CASA there are twenty manuscripts taken from the St. Jovan the Baptist monastery in Slepče, near Demir Hisar. After Verković's death (he died in 1893, two years after his stay in Russia where he sold Macedonian manuscripts), i.e. in 1902, Verković's manuscripts were accidentally taken to Zagreb (where he had previously left some manuscripts for storage). Among the more important ones are: the Slepče tetragospel and octoechos, both from the 14th century, a lenten triodion from the end of the 13th or from the beginning of the 14th century, a missal from the late 14th century, the Žitog tetragospel and another tetragospel dating from the 16th century.

    In addition to these two collections, in the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts there is another manuscript archive of Macedonian origin. This archive includes: a lenten triodion and a spring triodion from the Ohrid school dating from the first half of the 13th century, a selective gospel and a Bitola selective octoechos from the 13th century, a Bitola missal and a Lesnovo selective gospel (both from the 14th century), the Collection of Vladislav Gramatik from the 1469, and a tetragospel from the Skopje area dating from the first half of 15th century.

    In the CASA archives there are also 15 fragments of old Slavic manuscripts. Some of them are from Macedonia, including a parchment sheet of the Gospel according to Matthew, written at the end of the 13th century at Mt. Athos.

    In addition to the CASA manuscript collection (which consists of 113 works), old Macedonian manuscripts can also be found in other Croatian libraries, museums and scientific institutions. The National University Library in Zagreb has 21 manuscripts, among which, for instance, is a fragment of a lenten triodion dating from the first half of the 13th century. One manuscript resides in Zagreb's City Library, whereas in the History Museum of Croatia there are 56. Old Macedonian manuscripts can be found in the science libraries in Zadar and Dubrovnik, as well as in Cavtat (in the Valtazar Bogisić collection), Kninsko Pole, Mokro Pole and Šibenik (catalogued as being the property of the Serbian Orthodox Church, but there is no information on their condition after the war between Serbia and Croatia in the 1990s.)

    Old manuscripts that originate from Macedonia are saved in Slovenia, as well. The University Library in Ljubljana has the Macedonian Kopitar lenten triodion, which dates from the middle of the 13th century and belongs to the Kratovo literary school. It is a parchment manuscript, but only fragments of it remain, i.e. 72 pages only.

    Macedonian manuscripts and books can be found in other European cities, as well as in private collections. Few of them remain in Macedonia (a little more than 400), whereas there are many more all over the world. They belong to the Macedonian spiritual and cultural heritage, but not to the Macedonian scholars and to the people who created them, since our people's inheritance rights have been appropriated in times of foreign rule and war, by a robber's passion.

    The biggest damage inflicted upon Macedonian handwritten heritage was done in the 19th and 20th centuries, after the founding of some neighbouring countries, i.e. after the increase of foreign church propaganda and influence. The theft was first carried out by priests from the neighbouring churches (literary heritage was mostly kept in the holy buildings), and afterwards by anyone who could do so – from soldiers to passers-by.

    The old manuscripts and books that were collected by travellers such as Stefan Verković, Viktor Grigorovič, Antun Mihanović and others, are most often kept in libraries and museums throughout Europe. However, those in Bulgaria, and even in Serbia, especially in the Serbian and some Montenegrin monasteries, are not yet fully available to Macedonian researchers. Most often they are concealed or, when they are being exhibited, their origin isn’t mentioned, so that our researchers have to obtain information indirectly (from descriptions in articles or from catalogues). Such difficulties notwithstanding, Macedonian scholars of handwritten and literary heritage have catalogued and briefly described around seven hundred manuscripts that reside in European libraries and museums. Even this list isn’t complete, though, since some of the older manuscripts in the collections are described as Serbian, Bulgarian or Russian, even though they originate from Macedonia.

    Many valuable Macedonian literary artefacts are to be found in Serbian institutions. In Belgrade's "Svetozar Marković" University Library, among other things, there are two important Macedonian manuscript collections. One of them is from the Lesnovo monastery, and it consists of 31 manuscripts and 10 manuscript fragments. The manuscripts were taken from the Macedonian monastery by the Serbian authorities during the Balkan Wars in 1913, and then taken to the Serbian Seminary at the Belgrade's University. After World War II they were taken to the "Svetozar Marković" University Library in Belgrade (instead of the University Library in Skopje). After a while the collection was not catalogued as a Lesnovo collection, but was renamed (so that its origin is obscured) as The Collection of Ćorović (after the manuscripts catalogue editor!). The second collection consists of 28 priceless Macedonian manuscripts that Josip Cvijović, the once Bitola bishop who later became the Skopje Metropolitan, collected. Those manuscripts mainly originate from the Bitola region. Cvijović took them to Belgrade in the 1930s.

    The Serbian Royal Academy, which later grew into the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts (SASA), even in the 19th century, collected literary artefacts from Macedonia. In the SASA library today there are many Macedonian manuscripts, the most important of which are: Oliver's menaion (written in 1342 in the Lesnovo monastery; 232 sheets), the Lesnovo prologue (written in the same monastery in 1330; 321 sheets), Speeches (written in the Markov monastery in the 14th century; 318 sheets), a Tetragospel from the Lesnovo monastery dating from early 14th century (258 parchment sheets), a Macedonian Collection from the 18th century, a Requiem of the St. Blagoveštenie monastery in Skopska Crna Gora, a Pčinja "krmčija" (14th century, written in the St. Prohor Pčinjski monastery), a Tetragospel from the 14th century, on 321 parchment sheets (written in the same monastery), and a Collection dating from the 17th century, which contains articles on the Macedonian educators Prohor Pčinjski, Gavril Lesnovski and Ilarion Meglenski.

    Before World War II, when the Serbian Orthodox Church was present in Macedonia, via its priests and via all sorts of contests, it managed to collect many old manuscripts and books. One of the most determined collectors at the time was Radoslav Gruić, who collected for the State Museum in Skopje, and from there he took away the manuscripts and books in 1936-37 for delivery to Belgrade. After his death (following the war), his collection was transported to the Museum of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Belgrade. Today, among other manuscripts, in the Gruić collection in the Church Museum there are six extraordinarily significant Macedonian manuscripts: a tetragospel from the 13th century and one from the 14th century, the Apocryphal Collection of Adži Baba the Teacher (17-18th cent.), a Collection dating from the 18th century, a "Čin na eliosveštenie" (13th century) written on 72 parchment sheets, and a Kičevo octoechos (13th century). In the Serbian Orthodox Church's collection there is also: a Pentecostarion (spring triodion) dating from 1520, Hagiographies and teachings from 1350, and a Kučevište menaion from 1622-23. A part of the manuscripts obtained by the Serbian Orthodox Church can also be found today in the Serbian Patriarchy Library, and the most important of those are: a Psalter from the 16th century, a Requiem of the St. Jovan Bigorski monastery from 1869, a Missal dating from the 16th century, a "Mitarstvo" from the 18th century and a tetragospel from the 15th century.

    There's a library rich in old Macedonian manuscripts and books in the Dečani monastery, too. The Russian researcher A. Gilferding, as early as 1857, found in the Dečani monastery several old Macedonian manuscripts from the 13th and 14th centuries (among which the Dečani Psalter and the Dečani Gospel), which he took to the Public Library in St. Petersburg. It is assumed that this monastery, as well as other Serbian monasteries and churches, has Macedonian manuscripts and old books that, because of their inaccessibility, haven’t been catalogued by Macedonian scholars. In the Chilandar monastery, which is run by Serbian priests and monks, there is also a rich Macedonian handwritten and literary heritage, which includes several dozen manuscripts dating as early as the 14th century!

    In Belgrade's National Library, which was destroyed during German bombing in 1941, there used to be a large Macedonian literary heritage, i.e. several hundreds of old Macedonian manuscripts, among which there were 36 manuscripts that Jordan Hadži Konstantinov – Džinot dispatched. During the bombing many Macedonian manuscripts were destroyed, among which around thirty from the 14th century, of which not even a photocopy was saved; that is, the biggest Macedonian manuscript collection that has ever existed in a library was destroyed. It is interesting to mention that before the bombardment all the manuscripts were placed in special crates and were ready to be transported to a safe place. During the attack, they were in the library's ground floor, which the fire reached on the third day of the bombardment. But in the meantime no-one had thought of the several thousand manuscripts. However, during World War II the same library began to form a new collection, once more out of Macedonian manuscripts. Among the first ones in it were the Gurište Tetragospel dating from the 15th century, the Poreč Tetragospel from the 16th century etc. Of course, after the war, Macedonian manuscripts were collected in the same library in Belgrade, instead of in Skopje.

    Similar neglect of Macedonian manuscripts happened during World War I as well, when the manuscript collection from the National Library in Belgrade was accidentally left at the Niš railway station. Some Austrian soldiers took several manuscripts from it, and some of the manuscripts were Macedonian.

    Macedonian medieval manuscripts and books weren't destroyed, robbed, scattered and sold before World War II only; they were sold even after the Republic of Macedonia gained its independence. The manuscripts (just as many other relics), via the black market and for high amounts of money, reached the hands of foreign collectors or foreign libraries. Thus, for instance, in the early 1990s, some Macedonian archaeographers, via private channels (since official research by Macedonian scholars wasn't made possible), gathered information according to which during 1986 or 1987 four medieval manuscripts and one letter of Macedonian origin were given to the National Library of Serbia! They were dispatched by a person from Skopje (a woman), but in addition to the basic information listed about the manuscripts in the library, the name of the person who gave them away wasn't mentioned, which is the usual procedure when a manuscript is catalogued. Which, in turn, means that most probably the owner from Skopje sold them. The manuscripts in question are of utmost scientific and historical importance (in the National Library in Belgrade they are catalogued under the library numbers Rs 693 to Rs 699): a lenten triodion from the 14th century, containing 157 parchment sheets (!), a fragment of a Missal from the 14th century (23 parchment sheets), a Missal from the 14th century (248 paper sheets), a Psalter dating from the third quarter of the 15th and from the end of the 17th century, and a letter (in Macedonian) by priest Mihail Vuković from Mavrovo, written in 1869.

    Some records point out that two more manuscripts exist besides the ones mentioned above, about which our researchers don’t have specific information, although they were supposedly given away by the same person from Skopje. But it is thought that these manuscripts, until a few years ago when they were taken to Belgrade, were in the possession of an Ohrid family, which had a priestly tradition. That family gave away the manuscripts to a certain researcher, and one of the manuscripts was then noticed in the office of a member of the Macedonian Academy of Sciences and Arts. Even though the manuscripts were given to a scholar, they weren't catalogued nor elaborated on by Macedonian science, i.e. the Macedonian Academy of Sciences and Arts. They ended up in the Serbian National Library, instead of in the Macedonian National University Library (NUL "St. Clement Ohridski", which has the biggest collection of old manuscripts and the conditions to conserve and store them), although the library financially rewards finders of old manuscripts. In this case, cultural heritage artefacts have become "merchandise" in scientific circles, that is, a Macedonian citizen sold a Macedonian handwritten artefact to a foreign national institution. For such an act—lack of patriotism being implicit—the basic motive is most often a good financial compensation. Yet this is not the only such case since the Republic of Macedonia gained independence. Besides manuscripts of course, "merchandise" have been icons, archaeological objects and other old valuable things from Macedonia.

    In Bulgarian libraries and museums there is a rich manuscript heritage indeed, the extent of which is not exactly known. After 1879, when Bulgaria was set free from Turkish rule, and after the establishment of the Bulgarian Exarchy, the Bulgarian propaganda in Macedonia intensified. With it, the collecting of manuscripts and other relics increased, mostly done by the exarchy teachers and priests.

    The bulk of the valuable objects were taken away during the wars of 1912-1918, which can be seen from the following information about old manuscripts. Namely, in 1909, in Sofia's "Vasil Kolarov" library there were 609 manuscripts, and then volunteering collectors throughout Macedonia kept enlarging that number so that in 1920 it rose to 964, whereas in 1923 it reached the number of 1090 manuscripts. Thus, during this period alone (and to this library alone) probably 481 manuscripts were taken away from Macedonia, whereas that number cannot be applied to the collected and saved manuscripts residing in the Republic of Macedonia today. Besides to Sofia, manuscripts were also taken to Plovdiv, so that in Bulgarian libraries today there are many valuable manuscripts dating from as early as the 12th and 13th centuries.

    Bulgarian libraries and museums conceal such information, but Macedonian scholars, nonetheless, have been able to point out some exact manuscripts that can be found there.

    One of the world's depositories richest in Macedonian manuscripts is the "Cyril and Methodius" National Library in Sofia. According to information obtained by Macedonian manuscript heritage researchers, there are 398 manuscripts in this library. Among the most important are: a fragment of a lenten triodion from the end of the 11th century, two parchment sheets from a menaion-prologue dating from the 12th century and 127 parchment sheets (out of 175 in total) from the Dobrejšo tetragospel, which dates from the first half of the 13th century. The older they are, the more valuable for science they are, and in this library there are several manuscripts from the 13th century as well: a Skopje holiday menaion (279 parchment sheets), two octoechoses (73 and 32 parchment sheets), a tetragospel (171 parchment sheets), three menaions, two lenten triodions, three selective epistles, a selective gospel and several fragments of an octoechos, lenten triodions, a psalter and parts of a menaion.

    In addition, in Sofia's National Library there are several dozen 14th-century manuscripts, almost all written on parchment. Among them, the more significant ones are: a selective gospel consisting of 201 parchment sheets, a Tetragospel with an epistle (215 paper papers), the Speech of Isaac Sirin (239 sheets), a Lesnovo parenesis (315 parchment sheets).

    There are many valuable Macedonian manuscripts in the library of the Bulgarian Science Academy, too. In its archives there are several pages in Cyrillics, which originate from the 10th or the 11th century. Furthermore, there is also the Bitola triodion from the 12th century (101 parchment sheets), written in the Debar region, discovered in 1898 in the Bitola region, taken to Sofia in 1907 (and it is considered to be one of the most important handwritten artefacts, parts of which are written in the Glagolitic alphabet, in phonetic signs of the oldest variety, in rare musical "tita" signs, because of which it is also considered as one of the earliest artefacts of Macedonian music culture). Additionally, in the Bulgarian Science Academy there are: a psalter (106 parchment sheets), a selective gospel (fragment), eight parchment sheets of a triodion, a prologue (113 parchment sheets) – all dating from the 13th century; then a triodion (77 parchment sheets), an octoechos (192 paper sheets), a pentecostarion, a prologue in three parts (431 sheets), a Veles collection and many other manuscripts from the 14th and, of course, later centuries.

    In the National Library in Plovdiv, among other things, there are several older literary artefacts from Macedonia, such as: nine parchment sheets of a gospel dating from the 12-13th century belonging to the Kratovo literary school; then a lenten triodion from Bitola; fragments of a lenten triodion from Kičevo, eight parchment sheets of a gospel, a selective gospel (91 parchment sheets) – all dating from the 13th century, as well as a collection of speeches and hagiographies from the 15th century.

    In the Sophia National museum, where many valuable Macedonian relics are kept (among which the Ohrid Archbishops' precious stones crown as well as other archaeological and museum items) there are manuscripts from Macedonia, too. Particularly valuable and rare are the two parchment sheets from a menaion dating as early as the 12th century and a hymnbook from the 13th century on 64 parchment sheets.

    However, Macedonian manuscripts can be found even in the Archaeological Museum in Sofia, as well as in some Bulgarian monasteries and churches. Thus, for instance, in the Rilski monastery, among other things, there are to be found almost the earliest Macedonian (literary) traces. Namely, among the saved Macedonian handwritten heritage there are eight Macedonian Glagolitic papers from the 11th century, six of which are in the Rilski monastery, whereas two are in the Russian Academy of Sciences. Furthermore, this monastery also has a parchment gospel dating from the 14th century, a collection from 1473 and from 1479, which originate from Macedonia, and other items.

    Still, in addition to the earliest Macedonian Glagolitic papers, other old Macedonian manuscripts have also been split apart, as is in fact the fate of Macedonia's entire handwritten heritage. Thus for instance the Slepče epistle—dating from the 12th century and especially significant for several reasons, such as its rich ornamentation—has been taken apart, and parts of its 154 sheets are today in Moscow, Kiev, Plovdiv, St. Petersburg and Odessa. (A similar thing happened to the Dobrejšo tetragospel dating from the beginning of the 13th century, which used to have 175 parchment sheets, 127 of which are in the possession of the National Library in Sofia, whereas the other 48 sheets used to be kept in the National Library in Belgrade, but were destroyed during the city's bombardment on the 6th of April 1941.) Thus, valuable Macedonian manuscripts were stolen and torn apart and scattered by anyone who could do so, taking them wherever they could.

    Caption: According to prof. G. Ilinski, an expert on the Mt. Athos literary heritage "collection era" and its last witness (he was there in 1908), the best and the oldest transcripts done by St. Clement's followers are being kept in the Mt. Athos monasteries. The Ohrid Charters were concealed from the Russian scholar V. Grigorovič. There is no information on their location today or whether they are in the Zographiou monastery, which still stores Macedonian manuscripts and books.

    Of Macedonian heritage written in the Glagolitic Alphabet there are only eight manuscripts and four fragments preserved. These are not kept in Macedonia, but in foreign libraries and museums. There is evidence that there are still some Glagolitic (as well as Cyrillic) manuscripts preserved, hidden and unavailable for Macedonian scholars, within the monasteries of Serbia and Monte Negro. The evidence also shows that there are such manuscripts in the monasteries of the mysterious Mt. Athos, due to its specific history and limited access. The history of Mt. Athos, which is located in the ethno-geographical territory of Macedonia, encompasses Macedonian spiritual, enlightenment and cultural tradition, and therefore it bears consideration when discussing the issue of Macedonian handwritten heritage.

    What is, actually, Mt. Athos?

    Mt. Athos is a significant spiritual, cultural, historical, and literary centre of the Eastern Christian-Orthodox Church. It's on the easternmost end of Halkidiki, in the Aegean part of Macedonia (on the Athon Peninsula, 60 km long, where no tourist access is allowed). It is a type of Monks' Republic, which consists of monks' brotherhoods, with self-governing administration independent from the ecclesiastical hierarchies within the Orthodoxy, and the administrative head office—the Protate of the Mt. Athos monasteries—is in the so-called "town" Karaya. Some historic resources reveal that this monk's community existed as early as in the 4th century, but it became the true spiritual centre of the Orthodox Christianity in the 8th or the 9th century, when the monks completely took over the Peninsula.

    According to some researchers of Mt. Athos history, there were around 180 monasteries on the Peninsula in the 11th century. In the 12th century, there were over 200 monasteries and many more additional residences for ascetic monks as well as monks' cells. Viktor Grigorovič, after his stay there in 1844, wrote that there were 30 large temples, 30 residences for ascetic monks, 20 cemetery churches, 200 Paracletes' objects, and 400 small churches (660 objects in total). Today at Mt. Athos there are 20 monasteries, 12 residences for ascetic monks, around 800 cells and several thousand monks. (As many as 10,200 monks resided there in 1812).

    Mt. Athos has always been and still is the world's largest site for prayer, fasting, repentance and preservation of the original dogma and Orthodox Canon, but at the same time it's also a historical and cultural monument. It is a type of a museum of antiques, a treasury of precious items, a custodian of the Orthodoxy as well as of the Balkan Slavs' heritage.

    Over the centuries, fruitful literary activities were taking place in this spiritual centre. As a consequence, the monasteries created abundant libraries, which stored old manuscripts of great significance for the cultural history of the Balkan nations.

    In the past, the Mt. Athos monasteries were attacked many times, even plundered (they were the target of the Crusaders' expeditions, and in 1205 they fell under Roman rule). During frequent fires the libraries' archives were demolished, especially the Slavic (Macedonian) archives, which were destroyed deliberately or by negligence. Nonetheless, most of the manuscripts, i.e. thousands of them, were carried away from Mt. Athos in the 19th century.

    In spite of that, there are over 10 thousand manuscripts and old books (of which more than a thousand Slavic ones) preserved in these monasteries today. Most of the Slavic manuscripts are preserved in the Monasteries of Chilandar and Zographou. In the former, which is in the possession of the Serb monks, there are more than 800 manuscripts, and in the latter, which used to be in the possession of Macedonian monks and afterwards was taken over by Bulgarian monks, there are more than 300 manuscripts. Old Church Slavic manuscripts can be located in other Mt. Athos monasteries as well, such as: the Monastery of Iveron, of St. Panteleimon, of St. Pavle, the Great St. Anastasia Monastery and many others.

    Although it is the biggest spiritual centre of the Eastern Christian Church, Mt. Athos has always been closed off from the external world (the exceptionally strict access regime was in force until the end of the 20th century). In spite of the seclusion and the usurpation of manuscripts and other valuable objects from Macedonia, there are substantiated findings that numerous valuable Macedonian manuscripts and antiques exist hidden within the Mt. Athos monasteries. This assertion is based on the fact that the history of Mt. Athos encompasses the Macedonian spiritual and cultural tradition.

    What is hidden under the mysterious veil of Mt. Athos?

    Mt. Athos is much older than the Glagolitic Alphabet and many other milestones of civilisation, but the presence of the Glagolitic Alphabet there was recorded during the lifetime of St. Clement (and Cyrillic literary monuments were recorded after the fall of Samoil's Empire, when the ecclesiastical enlightenment activities were confined to the monasteries, especially the monasteries of Mt. Athos, due to its autonomy). Nonetheless, Mt. Athos was not a distant world, but it was on Macedonian territory, especially several of the former 200 monasteries in which Macedonian monks resided.

    The most significant monastery for the history of Macedonian culture and Orthodoxy is the Monastery of Zographou. Historic resources reveal that three monks from the Ohrid region in late 9th or early 10th century founded this monastery in the Monks' Republic. The monastery is especially significant and interesting for the Macedonian handwritten tradition. According to some sources, the three spiritual brothers arrived to Mt. Athos and formed a "monks family" in 898—according to other sources, it happened in 911—which means after the arrival of Clement (and Naum, who followed Clement) in Ohrid in 882. This Mt. Athos monastery was the centre of the Macedonian monkhood in the middle Ages. Many of the greatest Macedonian spiritual and enlightenment workers—such as Partenij Zografski, Ilarion Zografski, Nathanail Kučeviski, Cyril Pejčinović, and Anatoly Zografski—stayed there.

    The Monastery of Zographou was demolished and burnt several times, which means that its ecclesiastical and art valuables were destroyed along with it. It still has a wealth of artistic, historic and ecclesiastical items such as: iconostases, old icons, frescoes, crowns of bishops, golden objects, expensive church robes, etc. From all those valuable things, most information is preserved about the old manuscripts, a part of which has been carried away and can now be found throughout Europe. The most prominent manuscripts that were preserved in this Monastery are the Gospel of Zographou and the Papers of Zographou from the 10th century. The monastery's library, even today, stores numerous old manuscripts, among which are manuscripts of Macedonian origin, such as: the Menaion of Dragan from the 13th century, the oldest hagiography of St. Naum Ohridski, manuscripts of Jovan Kratovski and others.

    Mt. Athos is considered to be a closed world, but the Monastery of Zographou is literally padlocked. Namely, according to one of the few Macedonian men that recently visited this Monastery (the access to women has always been prohibited), Dr. Simon Drakul—who wrote in the monograph of his own ancestor, Anatolij Zografski from Lazaropole—the keys from the padlocks, which hide away all the tacit places of Mt Athos' treasury of our spiritual heritage relics, are partly in the hands of the Greek territorial autonomy, partly in the special Mt. Athos' Internal Police Control, and partly in the possession of the Bulgarian-state-sanctioned authorities who adopted the monastery, usurping the Macedonian hereditary rights.

    This mysteriousness, as well as the apparent presence of old Macedonian manuscripts on Mt. Athos, increases the curiosity about Macedonian cultural treasures even more. And only the small insight we have into it speaks volumes of the written heritage that is there on this sacred peninsula.

    In the 19th century, only few curious visitors and researchers of literary treasures were fortunate enough to visit Athon. Among the first visitors was the Croat Antun Mihanović, serving as Austrian consul in Salonica. After him came the Russian scientists Viktor Grigorovič and G. Ilinski.

    Grigorovič stayed on Mt. Athos from September 1844 to the 1st of January 1885, mostly in the Monastery of Zographou and at Anatoly Zografski's. Thus, Grigorovič is one of the greatest experts on the treasures of the Mt. Athos monasteries. He wrote that there were 13,000 books and even 2,800 manuscripts, 455 of which were Slavic ones. He stated that most of the Slavic manuscripts were written during the 14th and 15th centuries, and a smaller amount was written in the 13th century, at the same time as the Glagolitic Gospel of Zographou.

    Considering that Slavic literacy began on Macedonian territory and due to the fact that Mt. Athos is situated within the borders of the Macedonian ethno-geographical territory (in the past even more so), it is very likely that those manuscripts were created in Macedonia. But unfortunately, just as from every other part of Macedonia, these written monuments were destroyed or transported somewhere else. Historic sources reveal several such cases. One of the biggest outflows from the Mt. Athos libraries took place in the 15th century when many manuscripts and books were taken to the Library in Florentine. In 1517 many manuscripts were taken to Russia; with the help of Arsenij Suhanov, no fewer than 700 manuscripts were taken to Moscow. (When discussing the destruction of the manuscripts, it should be considered that the monasteries were often affected by fires, so that the monastery libraries, along with the handwritten treasures in them, were often damaged; only one of the 20 existing monasteries has never been affected by fire during its existence). These manuscripts, states Dr. Simon Drakul, were either transcribed in the monastery cells or were brought by monks, who came to Mt. Athos in their older age.

    But many Macedonian manuscripts, and Slavic manuscripts in general, on Mt. Athos were destroyed in a different manner. Viktor Grigorovič wrote in one of his books that in the past there had been more Slavic manuscripts than the amount he stated, but they had rotted or had been deliberately burnt. He also quotes eyewitnesses' testimonies about burning manuscript piles: "In Zographou, not much before my arrival, a pile of manuscripts had been burnt. From eyewitnesses I learnt that they were burnt without any second thought, and it happened in the monasteries of Vatopedi, Xenoph, Simona-Petre and Philotes… Many manuscripts were lost in the monasteries' inaccessible places, because when the Greeks came to rule a monastery, they would bury the whole of its library, so that any reminders of its former rulers were wiped out".

    If you consider the above, writes Dr. Simon Drakul in his Monograph of the Archimandrite Anatoly Zografski, along with the information that no learned visitor of Mt. Athos in the past had ever left the site without taking a book in his luggage, it is amazing how such important books can still be discovered. The above refers to Barski and Mihanović as well. The latter, as an Austrian consul, informed Grigorovič about the existence of the Glagolitic Gospel in Monastery of Zographou. Mihanović himself was brought enormous amounts of books for review from Mt. Athos; he, according to his own criteria, from all that treasure selected only three loads for himself. At that time no one cared about the value of the Macedonian literary heritage – Zographou monks gave the Glagolitic Gospel as a gift to the Russian tzar Alexander in 1860; and the Chilandar monks gave the Gospel of Miroslav to the Serbian king Aleksandar in 1896. The brotherhood of the monastery Esphigmenou sold lots of books to an English traveller, because at the time monks from some Balkan countries (primarily the Greek monks), instead of preserving Macedonian literary treasure, insisted on getting rid of it, the easier the better – so that it burnt not only in accidental fires, but in monastery furnaces as well.

    One of the greatest experts on the Mt. Athos written monuments is G. Ilinski, who stayed on Mt. Athos in 1908. He discovered that in the Monastery of Zographou at the time there were still 184 Slavic manuscripts, seventeen of which were from the 13th century (the total amount of manuscripts, however, used to be several thousand).

    Ilinski wrote that Mt. Athos had preserved for science the oldest, the greatest and the most valuable Glagolitic monuments. The Monastery of Iveron preserved the document considered to be, according to its date, the oldest monument not only of the Glagolitic alphabet, but also of all Slavic ones. Of those without dates, according to Ilinski, the most significant are the Glagolitic Gospel by Zographou and the Tetragospel of Maria. According to him, the best and the oldest transcripts from St. Clement's School in Ohrid and from the Preslav School were preserved on Mt. Athos.

    Every Mt. Athos monastery used to have a public library, as well as a secret one. Several monasteries, one of them being the Monastery of Zographou, were assumed to be wealthiest in manuscripts, having numerous Slavic, i.e. Macedonian manuscripts and books. Grigorovič wrote that when he came to the Mt. Athos monastery of Zographou, he wanted to see the libraries and the Charters. Anatoly Zografski from Lazaropole took upon himself the responsibility of showing Grigorovič around. He showed him the Glagolitic manuscript later known as The Gospel of Zographou—which Mihanović had already paid attention to—and the five Charters, which Russia was already familiar with. But, instead of the monastery's library, Anatoly Zografski showed Grigorovič his private library, situated in a comfortable place, but yet not fully unpacked. (His library was very large; he had taken with him several thousand books from his one-year stay in Russia. His will was that after his death his private library was to be left to the Monastery of Zographou.) Anatoly Zografski knew the reason for this curious Russian traveller's arrival and he was probably afraid that Grigorovič would take old and valuable items to his country; because Grigorovič, besides making a literary treasures inventory, wanted to see the mysterious Ohrid Charters as well. "All that I was told about the Ohrid Charters being lost was untrue, because they were found after my departure from the Monastery of Zographou", Grigorovič wrote later.

    Grigorovič had evidence that the so-called Ohrid Charters were in the Monastery of Zographou. Expressing an interest for them, he wrote: "I never doubted that these significant Ohrid documents were kept in the Monastery of Zographou, especially after I discovered that the last Archbishop of Justiniana Prima, on his way to Constantinople, had died in a cell of the Monastery of Zographou in Karaya. At the exact time, when the monastery's landlord was explaining this, I asked him to show me the Ohrid Charters. There are lots of them here, he blurted out, and they can be identified by the green signature. It is well known how important these Charters are for the academic testimonies from Ohrid... The next day, the same monk, very indifferently explained to me that the Ohrid Charters used to be there, but weren't there any more... In order to defer the attention from them, he gave me three wrinkled Charters, saying they were from Ohrid."

    The Ohrid Charters haven't been found to this day. Probably the Monastery of Zographou's gates, and Mt. Athos gates in general, conceal many other secrets. In fact, in the 20th century, the Monastery of Zographou was one of the most isolated Mt. Athos monasteries, which is also symptomatic, because it was usurped by Bulgarian monks. Therefore, all this evidence and all these assumptions point to the possibility that today, the Bulgarian monks in the Mt. Athos Monastery of Zographou possess written monuments extremely significant for Macedonia and for Slavic literacy in general.

    In spite of all the secrecy, it was established that there are many significant Macedonian manuscripts in the Monastery of Zographou, such as: a holiday menaion (also containing the poetry of Naum Ohridski) and Dragan's menaion (with original Slavic hymns of praise) from which pages are torn, but 219 parchments sheets remain—both dating from the 13th century; also from the 13th century, The Zographou Psalter of dijak Radomir, which is one of the best illuminated manuscripts in this monastery; then a Prologue and a Zographou Collection from the 14th century, and many others. How many Macedonian heritage secrets in this monastery remain to be revealed?

    Despite the passion with which the Greeks destroyed Macedonian literary monuments, in the Greek "St. Catherine" Monastery on Sinai there are the Sinai Psalter, written in Western Macedonia in the 11th century (containing 106 sheets, although the final ones are missing) and the Sinai Missal from the same century, 109 sheets; its three last sheets are preserved in St. Petersburg. At least we have records of them. But will it ever be possible to discover how many Macedonian manuscripts and books are in the Mt. Athos monasteries, as well as in monasteries throughout Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia, Monte Negro and Russia?

    Although Slavic nations are reserved and don't always draw attention to the fact that their literacy originates from Macedonia, they are well aware of it, and even too literally understand the Old Slavic written traces from the territory of Macedonia. Probably that's why there are many more Macedonian manuscripts in Russia, Bulgaria and Serbia than in Macedonia. In the past, manuscripts were not only systematically destroyed, but also systematically collected and taken out of Macedonia. One of the first and most determined collectors throughout Macedonia was the Russian scholar Viktor Grigorovič, who took away many manuscripts to his country in the first half of the 19th century. Today, in the State Library in Moscow alone there are 47 manuscripts from his "legacy", dating from the 12th to the 14th century.

    In the early 1990's, when Macedonian institutions became more independent in international relations, there was an intense cooperation between the "Vladimir Ilich Lenin" State Library in Moscow and the National and University Library "St. Clement Ohridski" in Skopje during which an exhibition was prepared that never took place. Namely, an exhibition of old manuscripts from Macedonia that were kept in Moscow was to be opened in Skopje. Only fifteen valuable manuscripts of the Moscow’s library vast handwritten heritage archive were to be exhibited. However, the reason the exhibition never happened wasn't that the library had never before taken such valuables out of its treasury, but because these precious items were estimated by the Russian experts and insurance companies to be worth 70 million US dollars. So Macedonia (for its own manuscripts) needed to pay a very high amount of money as insurance.

    The manuscripts' value, just as the value of all relics, cannot be measured in money; nevertheless, this fact alone shows the worth of Macedonian handwritten treasure scattered across the world.

    The State Library in Moscow, among other items, has the larger part (171 pages) of The Gospel of Maria manuscript—a Glagolitic monument from 10th-11th century—while the other part is in the National Library in Vienna. The State Library in Moscow also has several Macedonian manuscripts from the 12th and 13th century, such as: The Ohrid epistle (in 112 parchment sheets) which belongs to the Ohrid literary school (taken by V. Grigorovič from the Ohrid Cathedral in 1845), the Grigorovič Parable Book (the oldest transcription of the Slavic translation of the Parable Book, written in the 12th century, not preserved in full, but 104 parchment sheets only), the Strumica Octoechos (in 84 parchment sheets), all dating from the 12th century; then the Gospel of Bojan (109 parchment sheets) dating from the 12th-13th century, and The Grigorovič Psalter (169 parchment sheets) from the 13th century, discovered by Grigorovič in the Philoteus monastery on Mt. Athos.

    V. Grigorovič, despite the manuscripts he sold and the ones he gave as gifts, had an abundant Slavic and Macedonian manuscript collection of his own, given after his death in 1876 to the "Rumjancev" Museum in Moscow, which in 1924 changed its name to "V. I. Lenin" State Library. It is estimated that the Grigorovič Collection in this Moscow library contains 60 manuscripts, thirteen of which date from the 13th century. But, Grigorovič left Macedonian manuscript collections in other Russian libraries and museums as well. According to Macedonian experts, however, in addition to the Grigorovič collection, the State Library in Moscow has more than 130 other Macedonian manuscripts (!).

    The most significant Macedonian manuscripts in the State Library in Moscow, according to their date of origin, are: the lenten and spring triodions (188 parchment sheets), a hexameron (82 parchment sheets), the Hludov Macedonian parable book (171 parchment sheets), the Hludov Psalter (154 parchment sheets), the Karpinci gospel and epistle (313 parchment sheets) – all dating from the 13th century; the Macedonian gospel from Narov, a tetragospel (240 parchment sheets), the epistle (94 parchment sheets), a theophologue (149 parchment sheets), a prologue (104), a gospel and an epistle (207) and a theophologue (184 parchment sheets), all dating from the 14th century.

    The oldest preserved gospel from Macedonia can be found in the "S. Schedrin" State Library in St. Petersburg. It is the Gospel of Zographou, dating from the late 10th or the early 11th century. It was written in the Glagolitic Alphabet, i.e. it consists of 303 sheets, 228 of which were written in the Glagolitic Alphabet, and the rest of them were written in Cyrillics. This library also has a Macedonian Cyrillic sheet from the 10th century (discovered by Gilferding in the middle of the 19th century), and it is considered to be the oldest Macedonian manuscript of the "one-Er" old orthography.

    This library also has the Gospel of Dobromir dating from the 12th century, i.e. only a part of it, consisting of 183 parchment sheets, whereas the other part (of 23 sheets) is in the Sinai "St. Catherine" Monastery. The St. Petersburg library also has the Šafaric triodion and a fragment from a spring triodion from Slepče (on parchment), both from the 12th century; the Pogodin psalter (278 parchment sheets), the Orbel Macedonian triodion (241 parchment sheets), the Dečani Macedonian psalter (201), a lenten and spring triodion (157), Gospel readings (183), the Stamat tetragospel (183), the Dečani gospel (208), the Radomir psalter (a fragment) from the Zographou Monastery on Mt. Athos, five pages and three page cuttings of the Gospel according to Matthew – all from the 13th century; a Collection of three manuscripts (a prayerbook, speeches and lessons, apocryphas – 119 sheets) from the 12-13th century; The Lessons of Efrem Sirin, two tetragospels, one official menaion (225 parchment sheets), an octoechos (179 parchment sheets) and several more dozen manuscripts that were written in Macedonia in the 14th century, or in total 131 manuscripts (!), 71 of which were sold to the library by Stefan Verković.

    There's no library or museum in the Slavic countries that doesn't have Macedonian relics, manuscripts in particular. Fragments from several manuscripts (primarely triodions) dating from the 13th century can be found in the Library of the Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg, which in 1905 alone bought 84 Macedonian manuscripts from the legacy of the collector P. A. Sirku, a Slavistics scholar.

    Macedonian manuscripts are kept in the Academy of Sciences in Kiev, as well. The "Maksim Gorki" State Library in Odessa has the significant collection of Viktor Grigorovič. This collection consists of two sheets of the Ohrid Gospel (or the Ohrid Glagolitic papers) from the 11th century, discovered by V. Grigorovič in Ohrid, and a Collection dating from 1456. The same library in Odessa has a Cyrillic fragment from the 10-11th century, i.e. two parchment sheets, called the Chilandar papers, discovered in the Chilandar Monastery also by V. Grigorovič, in 1844.

    The National Museum in Prague has (in the Collection of Šafaric) the so-called Šafaric Macedonian epistle, also known as the Strumica epistle. It dates from the 13th century, consists of 91 parchment sheets, and is especially interesting for linguistic research.

    In the Yagelon Library in Krakow, among other items, there are six manuscripts that Rudolf Godowsky, a Polish doctor who stayed in Macedonia, took from the "St. Dimitrija" Monastery in Prilep in 1863.

    Macedonian manuscripts can also be found in the Kazan University and in the Kazan Spiritual Academy, as well as in non-Slavic countries' libraries and museums.

    The Library of Vatican, for instance, has the Aseman Gospel, which is the most beautiful Macedonian handwritten monument that was preserved. It was written in Glagolitics in the early 11th century, and it consists of 158 parchment sheets. Considered to be the oldest Slavic manuscript, it was discovered in Jerusalem in 1736.

    The University Library in Bologna has the Bologna Psalter from the 13th century (264 parchment sheets), which is very interesting for textual, paleographic, linguistic and ornamental studies. Many internationally renowned Slavic experts have studied it.

    There are Macedonian manuscripts in the State Library in Munich, in the British Museum in London (which also has a statue of the old Greek poet Eschin, discovered in Heraclea [Macedonia]), in Istanbul, in Vienna and in other European cities.

    CAPTION: There are so many old valuable Macedonian objects in the National Museum in Belgrade that they alone could fill a whole museum. All valuable discoveries from the period during the two World Wars were taken to Serbia; the archaeological objects from Trebeništa, near Ohrid, are some of the most valuable ones. (In the photo: Golden objects from Trebeništa that are in Belgrade's National Museum.)

    In addition to most Macedonian medieval manuscript collections that can be found in Serbian libraries and museums, our Northern neighbour's museums also store many valuable Macedonian objects dating from the earliest times up to recent years. Those objects were taken out of Macedonia mainly until World War II. That is, anything valuable discovered before World War II in Macedonia was taken to Serbian museums, mostly to the National Museum in Belgrade.

    In this museum, there are rare and extremely valuable cultural artefacts that originate from Heraclea, Stobi, Trebeništa and from other archaeological sites; there are hundreds of icons taken from Macedonian churches and monasteries, as well as hundreds of golden jewellery pieces.

    So many old Macedonian objects are in the Serbian National Museum that with them alone a whole museum of Macedonia's cultural heritage could be founded.

    One of the museum's departments richest in Macedonian artefacts is the ancient department. The Trebeništa site near Ohrid, which was discovered by chance in 1918 by Bulgarian soldiers building the Kičevo-Ohrid railway, has entered the world's archaeological treasure-house after golden objects were discovered in this ancient necropolis. Almost all of the most valuable discoveries, however, are now outside of Macedonia. At first, two golden masks and exquisitely ornamented rugs were discovered, and then they were taken to the Archaeological Museum in Sofia. Later the digging was carried on by Serbian archaeologists, who discovered two more golden masks and many other precious relics that are in Serbian museums today. In 1927, the Bulgarian archaeologist Bogdan Filov published the first scientific analyses of the findings from the first seven rich Trebeništa tombs. Then the Serbian classic philologist and epigraphist Dr. Nikola Vulić researched this site, from 1930 to 1933, and found many important objects, which ended up in the archives of the National Museum in Belgrade.

    The objects from this site—the golden masks, the golden sandals, the bronze craters, the helmets, and other golden, silver, bronze, amber and glass objects, are exceptionally significant for archaeology in general. But anything discovered until World War II has been almost unavailable to Macedonian archaeologists, i.e. is being kept in Serbian and Bulgarian museums. The most significant archaeological objects were unearthed before World War II, but important discoveries were also made at the beginning of the 21st century (another golden mask was discovered). So far, around 850 objects have been unearthed from this necropolis and catalogued. The most valuable, i.e. 258 of them are in the Archaeological Museum in Sofia, whereas 187 are in the National Museum in Belgrade. The most famous archaeological objects from this site are several posthumous golden masks, two of which are in Sofia and two are in Belgrade.

    The National Museum in Belgrade guards jealously the archaeological Trebeništa findings, first catalogued and publicly displayed after the war, in 1956. Then, the young archaeologist Dr. Ljubiša Popović prepared a catalogue of Trebeništa relics in the Museum, according to which the collection consists of 23 golden, 54 silver, and 55 bronze and amber objects. Later it was found out that their number is far higher (187).

    However, this Belgrade museum also stores objects from a necropolis discovered in Radolišta near Struga, which was researched in 1937 by the Serbian archaeologist Dr. Miodrag Grbić. The findings date from the 5th century BC; they are similar to the Trebeništa relics and are distinguished by their specific handmade design.

    In 1931, a villager in the Bitola region had an odd, whitewashed scarecrow on his field. It wasn't odd because it was whitewashed, but because the scarecrow was in fact an ancient statue. He'd discovered it by chance in his vineyard near Bitola. After the sculpture reached Belgrade and was cleaned, it was found to be a rare ancient piece – a copy of Athena Parthenos of Phidias, whose original wasn't saved. The statue is still in the National Museum in Belgrade, and it includes most details that were in the original.

    This statue isn't the only such example in the Belgrade museum. There are many ancient sculptures, reliefs and capitals from Early Christian temples, which were taken away from Stobi before World War II. Most of those sculptures were found in the luxurious Parthenius Palace in Stobi. In addition to these ancient masterpieces, the museum has two exceptionally valuable statues dating from the 2nd century BC: the Satyr Musician and the Satyr Dancer, also known as the Big and Small Satyrs. Furthermore, there are several more objects, the value of which has placed them among the most significant in world's archaeology: an archaic relief of Pan, a girl's head, a nymph's head, the head of Orpheus, a figure of the goddess Aphrodite, and other marble pieces. There are also fragments of frescoes, which are rarities, as well as 5th century decorated capitals from the Episcopal basilica in Stobi, which is one of the largest church buildings discovered in Macedonia.

    In the Belgrade National Museum's ancient collection there are also two terra-cotta pieces discovered in Grešnica near Bitola: a Bust of a Girl, and a Woman shrouded in a pelos. A few portraits done in marble, discovered near Resen and Štip, are also in the possession of this Belgrade museum, which is immensely rich in archaeological objects of Macedonian origin.

    However, that's not all the National Museum in Belgrade possesses. In fact, there are so many artefacts there that they cannot be listed. In the Medieval department, there is an Ohrid icon, painted on both sides of the canvas, which dates from the early 14th century. It was discovered in Belgrade in 1930 and was given to the king Aleksandar. There are also other Ohrid icons, some painted on old and worn out boards, soiled by smoke and candlewax. Among them are the left half of the Birth of Christ composition, and the right half of the Descent of the Holy Spirit (the other two halves were accidentally discovered in 1955 and are being kept in Ohrid). In the National Museum in Belgrade there are icons that were taken away from several cities, i.e. Macedonian monastery centres, as well as carved pieces, such as the Ohrid tzar gates (dating from the 16th century) and the Andreas gates from the St. Nikola church in the Skopje village Šiševo dating from 1389.

    The National Museum in Belgrade has a permanent exhibition prominently featuring objects from Macedonia, although they are not exhibited according to museum standards and usual exhibition practices. Namely, the difference between them and the Serbian objects on display is that next to the archaeological site's name there's no mention of the country of their origin. The other objects that aren't on permanent display are even more skillfully concealed. Yet, there have been cases when this museum, in order to reveal its treasures, included Macedonian masterpieces in its exhibitions. Thus, in 1980 (that is, when Serbia and Macedonia were still parts of a mutual state), there was a Madrid exhibit titled "Serbian Art in the Middle Ages, from the 12th to the 17th century". Medieval Serbia was also represented by 25 Macedonian (?!) medieval artefacts and golden jewellery, all of them in the possession of the National Museum in Belgrade. The same museum, in 1984, to celebrate its 140th anniversary, set up an exhibition titled "The Art Treasures of Serbia", which featured more than 150 objects from Macedonia!

    Works that belong to Macedonian cultural heritage can also be found in other Serbian museums—the Museum of the Serbian Orthodox Church has, in addition to manuscripts and other objects, ten Macedonian icons, whereas in the Patriarchy Library there are five icons—but the National Museum is the place where a rich Macedonian heritage is stored. This museum jealously guards other items, the origin of which is already known to be Macedonian. When the permanent exhibition of the Museum of Macedonia was being prepared in 1982, the Belgrade Museum was asked to lend 29 items to be used temporarily, but instead it gave only 12 copies of objects, even though a reciprocal lending (of ecclesiastical, ethnological and archaeological objects discovered in Kosovo and kept in Skopje) was offered. Hence, even in those days borrowing wasn't possible. And today still, borrowing, let alone restitution, is in the realm of fantasy. In fact, the denial of Greek and the Egyptian pleas for the return of their heritage doesn't bear any good omens for the return of Macedonian cultural heritage either.

    In the 19th century, Macedonian churches and monasteries were taken over by priests of the same [Christian Orthodox] religion, but who spoke foreign languages. First came the Greek priests, who were intent on destroying anything of Macedonian origin and anything that was a reminder of Macedonian spirit (although it was Christian). Then the Bulgarian Exharchy priests came, gathered anything that was of value and that had somehow been saved during the previous centuries. Afterwards Serbian priests came, as well as many different armies (especially at the beginning of the 20th century). They carried out the most intense plunder of Macedonia during the wars of 1912-1918. Not only did they steal valuable relics, but anything that was to be found in churches and monasteries. Temples suffered the worst looting, or were flattened to the ground – by people who pray and cross their hearts in the same such temples.

    The sacred Christian buildings of Macedonians were destroyed by no-one else but their Christian neighbours. The worst heathens didn't do such things in many wars and plunderings.

    Perhaps the most absurd of all absurdities in those wars is the ravaging crusade of the Christians ("the liberators") who plundered everything that was Christian in Macedonia. The valuable relics they took during godless acts of robbery are today in treasuries and archives of their countries' museums, libraries or monasteries, whereas those priceless riches are almost unavailable to (and cannot even be seen by) those whose ancestors created them.

    Those who almost without any resistance plundered Macedonia tried to erase their traces, but weren't able to erase everything. Enough evidence remains to show the scope of the damage done.

    The Serbian armies and governments during the Balkan Wars and World War I (and especially afterwards) robbed Macedonia of many valuable objects, erasing most traces of their "collecting" activities. Instead, right after World War I ended, they took care to leave documents that would suggest the theft had been done by others – such as the Bulgarian armies and military governments.

    Serbian and Bulgarian crusaders weren't, however, the only parties to plunder Macedonian artefacts.

    The Greeks did much damage in the South of Macedonia. Other armies passing through Macedonia also took part. There are traces, for instance, left by French soldiers, who, among other things, tore down the monastery in the Brajčino village and the church in the Dolno Dupeni village, near Prespa. Besides the Bulgarian and the Serbian armies, some of the Triple Entente armies had their special committees that collected culturally historical and art objects, primarily from Macedonian churches and monasteries.

    All those people for a short period, in just a few years, caused great damage to Macedonian cultural heritage, i.e. carried away anything that they could: manuscripts, books, archaeological objects, icons and other church items – although documented traces don't exist about everything that was taken. At least not in Macedonia, because, for instance, from 1912 to 1915, during the time of the Serbian special supervision, the evidence for the disappeared treasures is stored in Serbian archives, which are not accessible to researchers. The Bitola historical archive, however, has kept the documentation the Serbian administration prepared about the plunder done by the Bulgarian army and government. The evidence is rich indeed (and the documents about the damage and robberies of Macedonian churches and monasteries during World War I were published in a separate publication in 1985 in Bitola).

    Caption: Besides Greek, Bulgarian and Serbian priests, in the 19th and 20th centuries many armies came from different parts of the world, and all of them ravaged Macedonia. Shown above, the most valuable objects from the Ohrid churches and monasteries, now in the National Museum in Sofia.

    During the Balkan Wars and World War I, the Bulgarian state used to send missionaries into the new countries to make surveys of their cultural treasures. This meant the collection and removal of valuable objects under the pretense of protecting them from wartime hazards (other armies, possible future conquerors, or military actions in general).

    In those so-called cultural missions many scholars and professors were involved, some of whom were people of Macedonian ancestry – Mihail Arnaudov, Nikola Milev, the Ohrid-born Georgi Valačev, George Miletič; and from Bulgaria – prof. Jordan Filov, a well-known archaeologist and the Sofia Archaeology Museum's director, and later (during World War II) the president of the Bulgarian government. More precisely, in August of 1916, Filov was sent and financed by the Bulgarian army headquarters in order to catalogue the Ohrid monuments. As Filov writes in the reports about his first stay in Ohrid – on August the 5th, at the Ohrid bishop Boris quarters, he saw the shroud that was given to the Ohrid bishop by the Emperor Andronicus. About it, nothing further was known until it turned up in the Sofia's National Museum in the late 1990s.

    The historian and researcher of Bulgarian archives, Dr. Zoran Todorovski, has discovered a document by Čaulev, stating that as per the request of the Bulgarian president Boris Radoslavov an icon of Jesus Christ dating from the 13th century was taken to the National Museum in Sofia. The icon was a gift from the Ohrid archbishop Dimitrij Homatijan. The National Museum in Sofia also received a bronze chandelier panel with an inscription by archpriest's hermit the Justinian dating from the 15th century. During his archive research, Dr. Todorovski also found a list of 21 objects that were appropriated at the time, and in the late 1990s started to appear, one by one, on Bulgarian museum shelves. The people from Ohrid had even sent a direct written request to the president Radoslavov, asking for the return of those icons and saying they could take care of them by themselves.

    Yet, let's see what the Serbian reports on the "Serbian rival in plunder" contain. In the documents on file in the Bitola historical archive there is information on various objects that can be considered both material and cultural wealth, i.e. those documents reveal that the monasteries and churches were robbed of everything that was possible to be carried away – from candlesticks and candles to icons, carvings, textile, wheat and ordinary furniture. Even objects of no material value were taken away or destroyed, so in that context, the attitude of the Bulgarian armies and military officials towards the valuable historical and artistic works is more than clear. The lists of appropriated objects are lengthy indeed, but we will enumerate only the more characteristic examples concerning valuables.

    From the church in the Dobruševo village in the Mariovo region, everything was taken away, and then all of the buildings (the church, the bell tower, the church school) were mined and demolished. Everything was taken from the churches in Dolna Čarlija (things such as a missal, two books of hours, irmology), Podmol (an octoechos), Lopatica (a gospel) and Crničani (an epistle, a book of hours, a psalter, two menaions, two octoechoses), and then the holy buildings were torn down.

    The books and the icons, together with the church bells and furniture, were taken from the churches in Staravina and Gradešnica. Many things were appropriated from the Čebren property (cattle and food), and sixteen buildings were destroyed, including the church. The books and the iconostasis were taken from one of the two churches in the Sredno Egri village. All the books and icons were taken from the churches in Brod (in the Bitola region), in Tepavci, Gneotino, Gradilovo (which doesn't exist today). In addition to the ones in Gradilovo, churches in Orehovo, Vranjevci (two), Paralovo, Meglenci, Trap, Dobromiri, Suvodol, Ribarci, Biljanik, Karamani, Kukurečani, Raštani, the monasteries in Krklino and in Velušina were destroyed.

    Until the Balkan wars and World War I, almost every Macedonian church and monastery had old manuscripts, books and icons, as well as golden, silver, bronze and copper artefacts – and all of them were stolen. From the church in the Malovišta village Bulgarian soldiers took 20 missals, two silver-plated gospels, and 100 icons. From the church in the Vašerejca village, the gates were taken, as well as eight icons, a gospel, a missal, a holiday menaion, two octoechoses, an epistle, a prayerbook, a book of hours and 15 icons.

    The Beranci village church was robbed of, among other things: a gospel, a menaion, two octoechoses, a lenten triodion, a church triodion and an epistle, and from the monastery in the same village, besides other material things, six ornamental icons, two gospels, two epistles, a prayerbook, a missal, 12 menaions, two octoechoses, and a Book of Hours were taken. From the church in the Bukovo village, in the Bitola region, 10 missals were taken away, and from the Krstoar church – twenty missals. The churches in Trnovo, Dihovo (two churches), Niže Pole, Brusnik, and Lavci were robbed and demolished, as well as the monastery in Magarevo.

    All the monasteries and several churches in Prilep and the vicinity were robbed, and the churches in Slepče, Strovje, Melnica, Topolčani, Stepanci, Ruvci, Marul and Vitolište were torn down.

    Caption: The Serbian administration erased the traces of its "collecting" activities throughout the Macedonian churches and monasteries during the 1912-1918 wars, but it left behind documents about the Bulgarian army's plundering.

    There are historical documents detailing countless barbaric thefts of historic objects from Macedonia, which greatly damaged the identity of our people. Such lists seem endless, and the information they contain is staggering, so here we will list only some of the more typical examples documented by the Serbian administration after World War I, on their rivals in plunder – the Bulgarian government officials and their special thievery missions. One has to bear in mind, however, that in some of the cases mentioned perhaps not everything was destroyed by the "rivals" in plunder. It is possible that some misdeeds were overblown or dismissed as someone else's acts, but the truth is that all those things were destroyed or stolen. On those long lists there are all kinds of things that were kept in the sacred buildings, from objects of no financial worth, to objects of great value, to objects that are masterpieces of Macedonian cultural heritage.

    During a raid, the soldiers of the 52nd Bulgarian infantry regiment damaged the Kurbinovo church in the Resen region, set the Pretor church to fire, tore down the church in the Asamati village, and burnt many icons. The monastery in Gopeš was also burnt, and the churches in Carev Dvor, Drmeni, Stipan, Perovo, Volkodere, Stenje, and Slimnica were robbed, as well as the monastery in Jankovec.

    The Serbian church administration also recorded great damage to the churches and monasteries in the Ohrid/Struga area. The St. Naum monastery was under Bulgarian rule for just one year, but the monastery property in the Stipan monastery (in the Prespa region) and the property in the Trpejca village were under Bulgarian rule until 1918, when the military forces departed. Besides money, they also took many valuable relics from this monastery. Following the orders of the Metropolitan Boris, the relics were transferred to the National Museum in Sofia, and among other things, there were: a shroud embroidered in gold, a holy goblet made of silver, a gilded holy goblet, a treasure chest of massive silver with relief pictures, a long silver box with the remnants of several saints and two old silver-plated gospels. There is an official committee memorandum about these objects, authorised by the Metropolitan Boris. The St. Spas monastery, according to one report of the Serbian church administration, suffered the most by the activities of the Metropolitan Boris and his men. Great damage was also done to the St. Svetiteli and St. Bogorodica monasteries in Kališta (among other things, 4 kg of silver were stolen). Only the St. Petka monastery in Velgošti wasn't robbed, as it was relatively destitute.

    At the time of their departure from Ohrid, the Bulgarian church administration left in the Mitropoly archive the original notes on every valuable relic sent to the National Museum in Sofia during World War I. According to those notes, some of the things taken from the St. Clement church were: the shroud of Andronicus Palaeologus, St. Clement's gold crown with precious stones and a little cross (which was made in Venice, and which during Turkish rule was being hidden in people's homes), St. Clement's repaired ivory sceptre ornamented with a snake, discovered in 1911 at Imaret, where St. Clement was buried, a bronze chandelier consisting of 19 parts, and the tzar gates. From the St. Nikola Bolnički, only the tzar gates were taken.

    However, in addition to these objects, others were also taken, although it's not clear from which churches: a St. Matrona silver box with ribbons; a small silver gilded cross embedded with precious stones; two embroidered towels—a gift from the tzarina Ana Komnena; a handwritten gospel with a red velvet covers; a Skalica annal in a wooden box; a big silver cross—gilded; twenty old manuscripts; an silver-plated old gospel with the images of St. Clement and other saints; a silver icon of many saints in relief; two silk bishop caps; a holy goblet dating from 1719; a Jesus Christ the Saviour with a wreath of thorns icon—which was a gift from the Ohrid Archbishop Dimitrij Homatijan in the 13th century; and a bronze panel from a bronze chandelier with an inscription that it was a gift from Prohor the Archbishop to Justiniana Prima.

    In 1923 and 1924 the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, via the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, asked Bulgaria to return the Ohrid church relics. However, the restitution request was never granted, and the correspondence reveals, as is stated in the Bulgarian letters, that the relics were left for temporary storage in Skopje and that they never reached Sofia, let alone the National Museum there. Yet, in the 1990s those relics started to materialise one by one – in Sofia's National Museum! There's another interesting fact: In that time, the Serbian bishop in Ohrid, Jovan Cvijović, was involved in the procedure of returning the relics from Sofia, as is evident from his correspondence with the Ministry of Faiths of the Kingdom SCS. The bishop was very persistent about the restitution of the historically cultural monuments—even though he himself, when he was Metropolitan in Bitola, was very zealous to collect relics from the Bitola monasteries and churches, and then to send them to the National Museum in Belgrade.

    There are also documents on the objects taken from churches and monasteries in the Kruševo region. Thus, from the St. Nikola church in Kruševo, among other things, more than 1 kg of pure silver was taken; a silver cross was taken from the town's Vlach church (St. Jovan), and a silver cross was taken from, and a gospel destroyed in, the St. Paraskeva church in Žvan. From the St. Bogorodica in Bučin two octoechoses were taken, as well as a pentecostarion, an irmology, a missal, a triodion, and a holiday menaion. From the Arilevo church a hymn book and a missal were stolen, and from the St. Jovan monastery in Slepče, 60 manuscripts and books were taken.

    According to the report by the Serbian governor in Veles, in the Veles area there weren't many robberies or much damage to the churches and monasteries during the Balkan Wars and World War I, with the exception of the St. Dimitrija monastery near Veles and of the St. Nikola one near Omorani, where at least one silver-plated gospel was stolen, and other material damage done. However, according to other sources, the St. Dimitrija monastery had many icons stolen (or damaged), although their exact number isn’t known.

    In the document left behind by the Serbian government (after the Serbian ecclesiastical, military and state administration despoiled the Macedonian churches and monasteries during the 1912-1918 wars), which describes the plunder and ravaging by the Bulgarian armies and emissaries in the same wars, there is information on the holy buildings in the Gevgelija region that were most damaged, or demolished, from 1916 to 1918. There too, besides movable property, other church objects were stolen, from bells and priests' robes, to candlesticks and candles. These thefts caused great material damage, but even greater was the damage done to Macedonian cultural heritage.

    From the St. Spas church in Gevgelija, among other things, the iconostasis was dismantled and carried away, as well as the gates, the Northern and Southern door, six tzarist icons, 16 icons of the holidays of the Lord and the Holy Mother, 16 epistles and icons of various sizes, a silver cross and 30 church books. In 1916, both this church and the other town church, St. Troica, were demolished. From the latter, the iconostasis was taken, along with the Northern and Southern gates, eight tzarist icons, 20 icons of the holidays of the Lord and the Holy Mother, 14 epistles and icons of the Christ's Crucifixion, as well as 30 church books. From the Molneni church (also demolished), the iconostasis with icons and three gates were taken, along with a holy cross, a holy silver-plated gospel, and 18 church books. From the Grčiste church eight big tzarist icons and five more icons of various sizes were taken. The Davidovo church lost ten various church books, and the one in Bogdanci lost 15 icons, five of which were large ("throne") icons.

    From the Gjavato church, in 1917, 36 icons were taken (12 of them large), a holy silver-plated gospel, and all the church books – and afterwards, the church was torn down. From the Paljurci church, among other things, 10 large icons and 20 smaller ones were taken, as well as a gospel and the church books. The iconostasis was destroyed in the Stojakovo and the Bogorodica churches. The church books were taken away from the Negorci church; from the Mrzenci church, a whole case of books was taken, as well as the iconostasis with the icons. Just as the rest of its property, the Prdejci church books weren't spared either. Long is the list of stolen objects from the Hum church, too. For instance, in 1919, among other things, the iconostasis with the icons were "lifted", as well as all of the church books, a gospel and a silver cross.

    In 1919, a list was made of the damages and robberies in the Kavadarci region churches and monasteries, too. According to that list, which was written by church officials, a marble stone—artfully carved and bearing a historical inscription—was taken from the Drenovo church altar on April the 23rd 1918 and transported to Sofia. Another stone was removed from the Eastern side of the church; the stone was artfully shaped and had an historical inscription. In addition, five columns were taken, and all of them were ornamented and had historical inscriptions.

    In April 1916, the Bulgarian education inspector took to Sofia, from the Kavadarci church, a triptych that used to belong to the St Gjorgji monastery in Polog. The triptych contained, among other things, information about this monastery's construction. Incidentally, a property of great value was taken from this monastery on September the 9th 1916, at the orders of the major Nikolov from the Bulgarian army's Fifth infantry regiment. In those years of war, the Moklište and Bošava monasteries were also robbed, as well as the Roždenci church, the Ulanci church, from which the Bulgarian soldiers upon their departure, on September the 8th 1918, took all the church books and all other sacred objects. On September the 3rd, upon their retreat, they burnt the Čemerci church. During their occupation, though, the Bulgarian soldiers and governors took four copies of the church protocols from each of the 31 churches in the Kavadarci region.

    The documents in the Bitola archive also point to damage and theft in the churches in the Mavrovo region, Polog and Poreče. In Poreče, among other things, the frescoes and the wall icons were painted over (while the other ones were taken away), and the church inscriptions were destroyed. From the Plasnica village church two icons were taken, and from Brod one icon of the Holy Mother, a big silver cross and four protocol books. An octoechos, six church protocols and a cross were taken from the church in the Benče village (where even in the late 1980s many valuable old manuscripts, illuminated very artistically, were discovered). From the village church in Tomino Selo, two silver crosses were taken, as well as an "Antimins", a collection, a missal, two irmologies, two common menaions, two prayerbooks, two large icons and two marble panels with inscriptions on them. As the documents say, the damage of the Tomino Selo church, in December of 1915, was done by the Bulgarian governor of the then-Poreč county, Stojan Blažev from the Dolno Vodno village, and the village priest. The books and some other items were burnt in front of the church, some valuables were taken away, and the inscriptions and frescoes were painted over and damaged. Also at that time in the Topolnica village church two wall icons and two inscriptions were whitewashed, and two missals were taken, as well as an irmology and a prayerbook.

    In the St. Nikola church in Gorno Krušje, Poreče, four protocol books and five icons were damaged or seized. Two wall icons in the St. Gjorgji church in Slatina were painted over with whitewash, and an irmology (a church book containing prayers and holiday praise songs) was taken. Seven wall icons were painted over in the Grešnica village church, which was robbed of a silver cross, a gold-plated gospel, 12 menaions, two Books of Hours and two epitraphils, a missal, an irmology, an epistle and an Easter service book. The Kovač village church was left without an epitrachil, a missal and eight icons; the Lupšte church was robbed of an epitrachil and five icons. Epitrachils were taken from the Zrkle and Ramne churches, one from each, whereas a common menaion and a Book of Hours were taken from the Zdunje village church. The St. Bogorodica monastery in the Manastirec village, on the other hand, was plundered not fewer than five times during World War I by Bulgarian soldiers, priests and governors. Anything that could be carried away, was taken – even the monastery supervisor's clothes and personal belongings.

    From both of the churches in Mavrovo (the old and the new one) three silver crosses were taken away—one of them made partly of ebony—as well as the prayerbooks. During World War I, church books and other objects were also taken from the churches in Lazaropole, Tresonče, Selce, Rosoki, Galičnik, Janče, Rostuše, Bituše, Sence, Volkovija, Beličica, Kičinica, Vrben, Ničpur, Brodec, and Nistrovo. The churches in Reč and in Sredzimir were demolished on July the 20th 1917, when the Štrkovica village was also destroyed due to a rebellion.

    History is full of examples of robberies. However, in this manner only the worst heathens robbed monasteries and churches of the cultural, historical and sacred treasures that were saved there until then.

    The preceding information relates only to the damage done by Bulgarian soldiers, emissaries and priests during World War I, but as such it is enough to suggest an incredibly large amount of cultural and historical treasures taken away from Macedonian churches and monasteries. (Adding up only the numbers of the old manuscripts and books carried away, one can see that the previously mentioned estimate of the total sum of manuscripts and books taken from Macedonia—to Bulgarian libraries, museums and archives—is very realistic.) Since everything valuable is being kept, the biggest part of it is surely being kept unofficially in the Bulgarian treasuries and archives, chiefly in the National Museum in Sofia (just as the Serbian museum keeps everything the Serbian army and administration stole). In fact, even after years of inquiries and subsequent denials, valuable, previously undisclosed relics still surface from time to time in foreign collections. Though many items are mentioned in the preceding paragraphs, they represent only a small fraction of the artefacts taken from Macedonia. One can only guess at the amount of Macedonian ethnological heritage being kept in foreign countries.

    Not only manuscripts and books were carried away from Macedonia and scattered across the world, but also many church relics, icons, archaeological and ethnological objects and other various pieces of movable cultural heritage. Macedonian churches, monasteries, archaeological sites and museums were plundered for centuries, and thefts happen even today. Icons were especially interesting to people who legitimately scattered Macedonian cultural heritage.

    A French customs official had a Macedonian friend, and during a conversation in the 1990s the customs official happened to mention that his coworkers and he confiscated three icons, the origin of which was unknown, but about which there was an unusual story. His Macedonian friend happened to be a bit more knowledgeable and informed about icon thefts in Macedonia and began an investigation. After Macedonian police reviewed his findings, Interpol became involved, and it was established that one of the three icons came from Macedonia.

    If the French customs official didn’t happen to have a Macedonian friend, the seized icon's identity may not have been discovered, since the story the customs officials had been told about the icons wasn't in any way related to Macedonia. The three icons were discovered in the luggage of a French physics professor while he was crossing the border. He claimed they didn’t belong to him, but to his friend Marie Helex Musner from Morocco, and she in turn claimed she painted them herself in her spare time. Yet, the accidentally discovered icon was examined by Macedonian medieval iconography experts and found out to be an icon of Jesus Christ dating from the 16th century, which was painted in the St. Jovan Kaneo monastery in Ohrid.

    Another detail from the unusual story about this icon is interesting. After the icon was examined, it turned out that it hadn't been catalogued anywhere in the Macedonian institutions, nor had it been included in the inventory of cultural heritage done in 1956, so that almost no-one in Macedonia knew of its existence. That, in turn, created another problem: It couldn’t be proved that it was stolen from Macedonia! (And if its origin cannot be proven, then there's no basis for asking for its return.) But this case poses a dilemma: Were there accidental omissions in the inventory of our valuable movable cultural heritage, which isn't complete even now, at the beginning of the 21st century?!

    Many other icons had fates similar to the fate of Ohrid's Jesus. They often end up in Western private collections and can rarely be reclaimed. As a result, Macedonian institutions have very limited information on the whereabouts of Macedonian icons, as well as other ethnological and archaeological items.

    Caption: No-one knows, nor will ever know, the number of icons taken from Macedonia. Since they were being systematically seized and relocated, their number is much higher than the several thousand icons that have been saved

    The icons from the Macedonian churches and monasteries suffered the most during the Balkan Wars and World War I, when almost all valuable icons were carried away (except the ones that were accidentally saved or hidden). However, icons were also stolen before and after the war – even after World War II, when Macedonia already had its own institutions responsible for the care of cultural heritage. There are recorded thefts, but probably there are even more unrecorded ones. From the end of the war until 1952, many churches, monasteries, museums, and galleries were robbed of many valuables, such as: icons, frescoes, carvings, old manuscripts and books, gold objects, silver objects etc. But not until 1952 did Macedonia start to make an inventory of the objects that are considered cultural and historical monuments, among which are the icons. After the inventory was completed, in 1963, around 22,800 icons were registered in around 1,700 churches and monasteries, no small number considering all the thefts. The icons were assigned numbers, photographed and described, but some of them vanished in the meantime nonetheless – from museums, archaeological sites, churches, and monasteries. Thus, from 1963 to 1991, 61 thefts were recorded from churches and monasteries, 49 of which were thefts of icons. Only 7 of them were solved, however, i.e. only 44 icons were located (two of them destroyed) of the 368 icons that were stolen.

    In the future it will be even harder to find the icons that have yet to be discovered, since their final destinations are private collections in Western Europe. And there are icons there that were obtained a long time ago. No-one knows, nor will ever know, the number of icons that have been taken away from Macedonia. But as regards the systematical thefts and relocations of those icons, we can safely say that there are more icons abroad than there are icons saved in Macedonia. Which means that such icons number in the tens of thousands. One can only estimate the value of such a cultural heritage.

    Artefact thefts happen almost continuously in Macedonia, and even from sites that are cultural monuments or from institutions whose responsibility is to protect the movable heritage. Just in the last decade of the 20th century, around five thousand stolen archaeological objects were repossessed, and it's presumed that there are many more items that have been taken out of the country unbeknownst to the authorities.

    There isn't any person or institution that would know even the approximate number of the Macedonian cultural heritage items taken to other countries, since over the centuries many precious relics were being systematically, and in large quantities, taken out of the country—and the thieves' traces were erased. Most of the stolen treasures are kept today, unofficially, in many foreign libraries, museums, archives, churches, monasteries or private collections. That's why information on Macedonian relics is so hard to come by.

    Macedonia didn't take appropriate care of its cultural heritage even after World War II, and even less attention was paid to decorations and relics in sacred buildings. The newly established Macedonian state didn’t take a timely inventory of buildings and items of cultural and historical value, which is why many monuments ended up in Belgrade libraries, museums and archives even at a time when the Macedonian people had a state and institutions of their own.

    From 1946, when the care of cultural heritage was officialised, until 1952, when the cataloguing of valuable items began, an enormous amount of movable cultural heritage was taken out of Macedonian churches, monasteries, museums and other places.

    Not until 1990 did the Republic Council of Cultural Monument Protection systematically begin to collect information on the displaced cultural heritage and to prepare a revealing list of such items. (That responsibility is now assigned to the Management for Cultural Heritage Protection.)

    The list was being prepared in an unassuming manner – by monitoring catalogues, collecting literature and collaborating with experts. As a result of this work, the Council created around eight thousand inventory entries. According to that revealing list, which is far from being complete in any way, there are more than ten thousand valuable archaeological items in foreign public or private collections, especially in the neighbouring countries and in other European countries. Archaeological heritage is the most prominent type of cultural heritage in our country (there are more than 4,300 catalogued sites alone) and it's highly likely that these types of items were carried out most often, being the easiest to smuggle.

    Yet the estimates based on scholarly research show that in Macedonia there are around 500,000 catalogued museum pieces. More than 150,000 of them are archaeological items, 100,000 of which are in the Macedonian museums – and not fewer than 50,000 are in foreign museums!

    Because of the advanced illegal trade with antiques, mostly with archaeological items, Macedonian archaeological sites—most commonly, the ancient necropolises—are very often exposed to illicit digging. These illegal activities were most intense in the 1990s, when from 1993 to 1997 alone, 52 such cases were discovered in 30 sites, 12 of which were protected as cultural monuments. (Some of them were massively destroyed.) Accordingly, there is reason to assume that during that period many archaeological items were carried out of Macedonia, and can today be found in private collections as well as in museums in some countries that are particularly interested in ancient objects.

    The Macedonian territory is extremely rich with archaeological findings, so it is an El Dorado for all professional and amateur diggers. Between the two World Wars, Serbian archaeologists worked on Macedonian sites and everything they discovered was taken to Serbian museums, where it still is today. After World War II, Macedonian archaeologists were digging there, but there were even more illegal diggers providing for the domestic and, above all, the foreign archaeological market. The items that were smuggled haven't been catalogued anywhere, nor was their existence made public, with the exception of some half-legal collections or some items that were taken a long time ago.

    Indeed, many various archaeological items have been carried away, so it’s almost impossible to collect all of the relevant information about them (type, period, archaeological site etc). Nonetheless, research has been done and data on certain types of movable heritage was collected, for instance, about the abovementioned handwritten and archaeological heritage. However, information was also collected (by dr. Eleonora Petrova) about the numismatic material stolen from Macedonia during the last 150 years.

    Just as in the 19th and 20th centuries, today there is also a continuous carrying out of numismatic material, without there being any information on the persons doing it or its final destination. Macedonian archaeologists obtain information on the stolen coins from foreign archaeologists, numismaticians, from catalogues and similar, often unofficial, sources. Even whole collections were taken abroad. Macedonia is rich in numismatic material (in the Museum of Macedonia alone there's a collection of around 14,500 items) and it was particularly attractive for domestic and foreign numismaticians.

    Caption: The splendour of the gold coins discovered in Macedonia is today reflected in foreign museum cupboards

    There have been several larger thefts of Macedonian coins recorded. The most significant and oldest collection carried away was one from Štip, taken out in 1912, but the amount of items in it is still not known. Some of these items can today be found in foreign museums. Most of them are silver coins, octodrachmae, from the Deroni tribal Paionian organisation, which inhabited parts of Macedonia and which coined money at the end of the 5th and the beginning of the 6th century. Another large collection of old coins was taken during World War I, i.e. 1917, from Topolčani near Prilep. Two hundred gold staters or distaters from the time of Philip the Second and Alexander the Third were carried away. Three of them are today in the permanent exhibition of the National Museum in Sofia, and there is no information on the locations of the others.

    In the 1960s, another large collection, consisting of around two thousand Paionian coins, was carried away from Macedonia's territory, and there is information about it in some foreign publications, i.e. auction catalogues. It was sold at Sotheby's on April the 16th 1968 and at Parke-Bernett's on December the 9th 1969. It is certainly known today that 13 items of this collection are from the time of the Paionian king Lycaeios (and the Museum of Macedonia has not even one such item, although it does have a single copy that it keeps as a souvenir). In the collection there were 1,700-1,800 tetradrachmae of Patraios, 68 gold staters and distaters, 23 of which Philip's, 37 Alexander's and 8 Philip's, as well as 108 silver tetradrachmae of Philip. All of them went abroad, and the Museum of Macedonia has only a few tetradrachmae, purchased as accidental discoveries, and it has not even one distater. Yet the museum in Sofia has a collection of 208 samples of tetradrachmae of Alexander, Philip, Demetrius, Poliocritus, Lysimachus and Audoleon, although it's incomplete, since some of the pieces are in private collections in Belgrade and Zagreb, and probably other places as well. In the Archaeological Museum in Zagreb there is a part of a collection of a hundred bronze items, discovered in 1932 in Dojran [Macedonia]. Dr. Petrova states that the most significant numismatic material from the South of Macedonia is today in Zagreb and Belgrade, because in the past we were in the same country and the police didn't intervene. Many items have also been carried away during the last two decades of the 20th century, since Macedonia didn't have appropriate purchasing politics.

    A wealth of Macedonian coins (particularly from the time of Macedonian kings) is today being kept in Greece. Some of those especially valuable items were discovered before 1900. Although they come from the Republic of Macedonia's territory, Greece today presents them as its own, or denies their existence.

    A large part of Macedonia's cultural heritage has been destroyed; a small part has been taken out of the country via legitimate or illegitimate purchases, and the biggest part of Macedonia's heritage that's outside of its borders was obtained by robbery, namely by occupying forces during wartime.

    The act of robbery is a civilisation-destructive act, and the question of the return (that is, the restitution) of the stolen heritage is a civilisational question. That treasure, besides its exceptional cultural, historical and art value, is an integral part of this people's identity. There are many examples and historical sources that point to illegal taking of incredibly large quantities of culturally significant items from Macedonia, which show a rich cultural and national existence during the Macedonian people's past. However, the Macedonian experience regarding the restitution of the stolen treasures—just as some other countries' experiences (for instance, Greece and Egypt)—suggests that restitution is almost impossible, although there are international conventions that regulate such matters.

    The Republic of Macedonia has signed some of those conventions, some of which do not have a retroactive influence (that is, they apply only from the signatory date forward). As consolation, it's worth noting that the largest part of the stolen Macedonian heritage was appropriated during wartime, i.e. during occupations. (For instance, in 1915, the Bulgarian state founded a so-called Macedonian military-inspection area, with headquarters in Skopje and a chief governor, which means that Macedonia was under military rule, i.e. it was treated as an occupied area. According to that, many items were taken to Bulgaria were taken during military rule, as well as during World War II, when Bulgaria again occupied Macedonia. Thus, the items were taken in times when Macedonia wasn't under Turkish rule. Bulgaria has appropriated the items and robbed Macedonia when it proclaimed military rule – and according to international agreements and conventions there is a legitimate basis for asking for their return to the Republic of Macedonia today.)

    It is usual that after wars a procedure of reparation and restitution is initiated. That procedure is based on clear legal terms, precisely because it's regulated by international law. But even in such cases experience shows that only rarely are treasures of this kind returned.

    A significant amount of Macedonian cultural heritage can also be found in the countries that used to form the Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia. Even in the time of former Yugoslavia there were restitution initiatives, but they failed to produce any results, because Macedonian institutions weren't persistent enough in their requests. There were even cases when some Macedonian institutions donated their own pieces in order for some Yugoslavian peoples' cultural history collections to be completed. Those items are now outside Macedonia's borders. There were cases when later the return of donated relics was requested, for instance from Serbia, via reciprocal exchange, but they were unsuccessful.

    Macedonian museums and other institutions responsible for the care of cultural heritage, backed by the state of course, still have a responsibility to use their rights and ask for restitution of the stolen treasure – via bilateral agreements (after all, that's why international conventions exist). In fact, some countries don't even allow access to Macedonian scholars for cataloguing or studying, although in some cases studying, copying and presenting certain types of heritage is allowed. Things are hidden simply because they have been stolen. But it should be possible to prove that certain items are from Macedonia, and that they have been stolen. There are many historical documents about it (and they only show that the fate of Macedonian cultural heritage is only a typical part of the pan-Macedonian destiny in the past.) However, before a well-prepared and legally founded procedure is initiated, a complete inventory of the cultural heritage should be made, which should include the scattered heritage. Cultural heritage belongs to all of humanity, but most of all to the people whose ancestors created it.

    Caption: Robbery is a civilisation-destructive act, and the restitution of the stolen heritage is a civilisational problem that is not solved in a civilised manner

    – Ante Popovski: A Voice from the Ancient Past, "Makedonska kniga" Publishing, Skopje, 1985;

    – Mihajlo Georgievski: The Fate of Macedonian manuscripts, in the collection Macedonia's Handwritten Heritage, Macedonian Culture Foundation, Skopje, 1998;

    – Gjorgji Pop-Atanasov: Dictionary of Old Macedonian Literature, "Makedonska kniga" Publishing, Skopje, 1989;

    – Simon Drakul: Arhimandrit Anatolij Zografski, The National History Institute, Skopje, 1988;

    – Ilija Velev: Delving Into the Tradition and Continuity, The Macedonian Literature Institute, Skopje, 2000;

    – Jovan Ristov: The Archaeological Treasure of Macedonia and Its Protection, in the collection The Archaeological Treasure of Macedonia and Its Protection, Macedonian Culture Foundation, Skopje, 1998;

    – Eleonora Petrova: The Alienation and The Illegal Trade of Numismatic Material in the Republic of Macedonia, in the collection The Archaeological Treasure of Macedonia and Its Protection, Macedonian Culture Foundation, Skopje, 1998;

    – Dragi Nestorovski: Cultural Heritage and Its Illegal Trade, in the collection The Archaeological Treasure of Macedonia and Its Protection, Macedonian Culture Foundation, Skopje, 1998;

    – Pasko Kuzman: Trebeništa's Art, "Gjurgja" Publishing, Skopje, 1997;

    – Statements by Mihajlo Georgievski, Zoran Todorovski, Eleonora Petrova and Jovan Ristov, given to this publication's author and used for the series of articles titled "How the Macedonian Cultural Heritage Was Stolen and Where It Was Taken To", published in the „Nova Makedonija“ daily newspaper (October 18th-29th, 1998).
    In the name of the blood and the sun, the dagger and the gun, Christ protect this soldier, a lion and a Macedonian.
  • machorot
    Junior Member
    • May 2010
    • 78

    If only the Macedonians mentioned throughout that article were courageous enough to start a world movement for the return to Macedonia of the many antiquities/manuscripts that are in foreign lands.

    Look at how well the greeks formed an International Organising Committee, whom even had the support of an Australian prime minister and UNESCO. click here

    Where are the Macedonians to present there case to;

    .... the Permanent Court of Arbitration at the Peace Palace in the The Hague, and/or the various International Law Seminars such as, “Resolution of Cultural Property Disptues”. That seminar attracted world experts on the issue of the return of illegally appropriated cultural property.

    It is sad an unfortunate that we are in this position, but the reality is we are a divided people and have been for centuries. That along with the many greek/bulgarian 'соработници' have put us in the position we are in today.


    • makedonche
      Senior Member
      • Oct 2008
      • 3242

      I agree with your sentiments.....

      It is sad an unfortunate that we are in this position, but the reality is we are a divided people and have been for centuries. That along with the many greek/bulgarian 'соработници' have put us in the position we are in today.
      .....we have nobody to blame for staying in the position we have been put in!
      On Delchev's sarcophagus you can read the following inscription: "We swear the future generations to bury these sacred bones in the capital of Independent Macedonia. August 1923 Illinden"


      • TojSum
        Junior Member
        • Feb 2012
        • 54

        I think 'соработници' is pretty nice word for that kind of people.


        • Soldier of Macedon
          Senior Member
          • Sep 2008
          • 13675


          At a ceremony in front of the Serbian parliament in Belgrade, the mayor of Ohrid in North Macedonia, Konstantin Georgieski, on Thursday returned a four-meter-long fragment of the old fence surrounding the Serbian parliament to its current speaker, Ivica Dacic. “This is a sincere gesture of friendship”, Dacic told the ceremony, adding that, “as of late we have had a series of steps that show what our relations [with North Macedonia] should be – brotherly and friendly – and I wish they stay that way”.

          The fragment is just part of the 500-meter-long fence that surrounded the parliament in Belgrade from 1936 to 1956. During former Yugoslavia, when the building served as the Yugoslav federal parliament, part of the fence was removed and transported to Ohrid, where it stayed for the next 65 years, decorating the lakeside villa called Biljana, which was one of the residences of the former Yugoslav leader Josip Broz-Tito. After the breakup of former Yugoslavia and North Macedonia’s independence in the 1990s, the villa became a presidential residence. Apart from holding historical significance for Serbia, the fence, designed by the famed Russian architect Nikolay Krasnov, is considered a work of art.

          The building of the Serbian Government, the Foreign Ministry and the Serbian Archive are also Krasnov’s works. During the ceremony, Dacic said that they had tracked down other parts of the fence as well, saying that one part is being kept in Belgrade’s directorate for protection of cultural heritage, while another part inow adorns Beli Dvor “the White Palace” in Belgrade, which was the official residence of the former Yugoslav royal family. Serbia and North Macedonia have exchanged several gestures of friendship since the start of this year.

          Serbia was the first country to donate COVID-19 vaccines to North Macedonia earlier this year, when it faced a dire shortage. It later allowed citizens of North Macedonia to get free vaccinations in Serbia. In return, last month, North Macedonia decided to exempt all Serbian tourists that travel to or through the country this summer from road tolls. In addition, the mayor of Ohrid, which is a major destination for Serbian tourists, said the municipality has decided to exempt Serbian visitors this summer from paying for parking space.
          Great, enjoy the piece of steel that you consider part of your cultural heritage. How about Serbia returns all of the items of cultural and historical significance that were either stolen, taken or brought from Macedonia, like those mentioned in the first article of this thread.
          In the name of the blood and the sun, the dagger and the gun, Christ protect this soldier, a lion and a Macedonian.


          • Risto the Great
            Senior Member
            • Sep 2008
            • 15660

            Macedonians are so compliant. I wonder if they quietly beg for a return to Yugoslavia every time a Serb arrives.
            Risto the Great
            "Holding my breath for the revolution."

            Hey, I wrote a bestseller. Check it out: