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Old 12-06-2009, 03:49 PM   #41
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“All oppression creates a state of war.”
Simone de Beauvoir

"Who would be free themselves must strike the blow. Better even to die free than to live slaves."
Frederick Douglass

"None who have always been free can understand the terrible fascinating power of the hope of freedom to those who are not free."
Pearl S. Buck

In the year 1739 freedom fighting Macedonian Christians took up arms against the oppresive masters of the Balkans, the Ottoman empire. Yet why is it that we've never read about this uprising before in any history book about the Balkans or Macedonia? The reasons may be that during the 18th century the Balkans were in such a state of turmoil that uprisings became common place. The Ottoman Turks were at war with the Russians and the Austrians for a good part of the 17th and 18th centuries that the uprisings were either never recorded or were immediately crushed by the well armed, and well trained, Ottoman army as to ever be treated as serious threats to the Turkish empire. Macedonia may have had more local uprisings that were never recorded or that may have only lasted in the memories of those who witnessed it or heard the stories through word of mouth or through song.

The significance of this one page in Dr. John Cook's book, 'Voyages and Travels: Through the Russian Empire, Tartary, and Part of the Persian Kingdom' Volume II, is valuable to Macedonians because he records something from our past that would've gone lost and forgotten for many, many more years, decades, or centuries. The purpose of this article is to thoroughly dissect this one page of Cook's book and to try and analyze, interpret, and establish a working theme and theory behind this uprising of 1739.


In doing this investigation the first thing that must be done is to ask questions. In this way to dissertate and work towards a goal of better understanding with what little there is presented here as evidence. One page from a book from 1770 may not seem like much but it is compatible to what the Balkan region in general was experiencing.

What happened during the year 1739?
The Russo/Austrian - Turkish War which started in 1736 and ended with the signing of the Treaty of Belgrade in 1739 were mostly sparked by Russia’s attempts to establish a warm-water port on the Black Sea, which lay in Turkish hands. Sultan Mahmut I was in power since 1730 and his reign would last until his death in 1754. The obvious significance of this to the Macedonian Christian uprising in 1739 is noted in what the Macedonian doctor stated to Cook. That the uprising was "prompted thereto by the Russian success in Walachia and Moldavia;" and indeed Russia firmly planted their foot in Moldavia in an invasion in 1739(Djordjevic and Galati 51) which gave the peasantry in not just Macedonia but all the Balkans hope of freedom from the Turk.

What happened in Macedonia during this time?
This question is an important one to ask because there are many many factors that may have lead to a local peasant uprising in 1739. One of the main reasons was economics. The Christian peasants in Macedonia (and the Balkans in general) were taxed heavily as compared to Muslim inhabitants of the Balkans (Mazower, ). Macedonian Christians faced many harsh reprisals from the Ottomans during times of war. Which gave rise to banditry in not just Macedonia but the entire Balkans. A perfect example of how the Macedonian Christians were affected by the rise of banditry was in 1705 the surrounding villages of the Bitola Kaza were taxed 103,800 Turkish akcis just for the pursuit of outlaws in their own region. For that period, this was an enormous amount of money(Stefou,Seraphnioff 35). The Bandits, or Haiduks (in Macedonian), were seen as Robin Hoods whos legends were put in song and story. However Haiduks mostly were renegade locals who preyed on villages and highways in their regions(Hupchick 178). The imminent result was ultimate hardship on the Macedonian peasant population who survived on crops and what little they had. Occasionaly the Haiduks were joined by the Ottoman provincial officials and Urban Jannisary garrisons, who were leading exponents of rural terrorism, using their police authority to intimidate and exploit local villagers. Summary violence against christian peasants increased during times of war(Hupchick 178). So we can also guesstimate that this uprising was sparked by the cruel nature of the Ottomans during the Russo-Austrian/Turkish war during that time.
University of Leicester Emeritus Professor David Turnock quotes in his book, The making of eastern Europe: from the earliest times to 1815, the following; Nevertheless there was great sufferings among the Balkan people and P.F. Sugar asserts that 'for all who lived under Ottoman domination the eighteenth was the worst century' as the empire was 'constantly on the defensive and always in search of additional human and material resources to maintain its very existence and to re-establish the authority of the central government in the provinces and dependencies'. Seven wars, each of several years in duration (twenty-two in all), between 1710-1792 were fought out on the Romanian and Slav lands of the empire....Even when there no large-scale war the environment remained insecure and local armed conflicts reflected the Ottomans' near inability to maintain minimal law and order(Turnock 247).
The lot of the peasants worsened in the 18th century when the non-hereditary timars(land granted by the Ottoman Sultans before the 18th century) were turned illegaly into the hereditary chiftliks(a Turkish term for a system of land management in the Ottoman Empire after the 17th century) and the local lords increased their control over the peasants(Vardy,Szendrey 554). Thus we can assume with confidence that economic depredation, taxation, land degradation, and physical peasant abuses created the atmosphere of rising tension to fight the oppressors.

Who would start this uprising in 1739? How could it start?
No leader(s) names were given from the Macedonian physicians account. If they were the author, Cook, did not record the name(s). However it would have most likely been a rebel Haiduk or Haiduks who were once peasants themselves who may have had connections with the Russians or the Austrians at the time, regardless of what the Macedonian Physician states that 'the Russians being ignorant of so formidable a body of friends' does not mean this to be the truth of the matter. We must assume that the Macedonian Physician may have not known the leaderships meetings with agents from Austria or Russia. To look at this one scenario we need to ask ourselves how would a peasant uprising be funded? Most certainly not through the Macedonian Christians themselves, who were all more or less peasants under the Ottomans, and not through any local means. The eighteenth century saw a rise in rebellions by subject peoples, particularly in eastern europe, to which the local Ottoman authorities reacted harshly. This only resulted in more resistance and rebellion. The European powers, in particular Austria and Russia, took advantage of the discontent by secretly funding rebellions and then openly interfering on behalf of the Christian Europeans (Wilner, Hero, Weiner 446). We can also assume that certain influential Bishop(s) held a leadership role in the uprising. A perfect example of a rebellious priest was the Bishop of Ohrid Atanas who in the later 16th century set plans in motion to free not just Macedonia but the entire Balkans from the Ottoman Turks (Djordjevic,Galati 13).
The gathering of a people who were ill-treated, left with nothing, and abused by the local authorities were grounds for easy recruitment. Especially seeing that the Macedonians looked at what Russia were doing in Wallachia and Moldavia created a sense of rebellious fervor amongst the peasant peoples.

Where did the uprising take place?
Unfortunately we are left to make guesses as the Macedonian Physician told Cook that 'the men gathered together in one place in Macedonia'. But does not mention where exactly in Macedonia. But if we were to make an educated guess we can say that due to Macedonia's uprising history prior to 1739 they all took place in the Northern part of Macedonia. The Mariovo uprising, The Karposh Uprising (Kumanovo), Bishop Atanas worked out of Ohrid to try and spread rebellion before the Karposh uprising, and now we can assume that this uprising in 1739 took place in the Northern region of Macedonia which is todays Republic of Macedonia.


"Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!"
Patrick Henry

"Decision is a risk rooted in the courage of being free."
Paul Tillich

"Freedom lies in being bold."
Robert Frost

In order to eliminate confusion from this page it is imperative to enlighten the reader to something about the text. The author, John Cook MD, wrote the following;

If this account is true, it serves to demonstrate, that the Greeks are not quite reduced to sensibility, and that they are very sensible of the weight of the oppressions at which they are at present subjected. From which they would very willingly run all risks to be freed.

Initially this would make the Macedonians in this text Greeks. This would in fact be the case however throughout Cook's book you notice that the word "Greek" described an Orthodox Christian or the Orthodox religion. One example is when he describes Russia 'In Russia every religion is tolerated, providing strangers do not disturb the established religion, which is of the Greek communion'(Cook 45). Scholars today ,like Mark Mazower, have stressed the point that 'As late as the 1850's informed commentators were still scoffing at "superficial observers, who still considered the Slavonic races as 'Greek'(authors quotation marks not mine) because the great majority of them were of the 'Greek' religion." Even the German scholar Karl Ritter proposed calling the whole region south of the Danube the "Halbinsel Griechenland" (Greek Peninsula). "Till quite lately", wrote the British historian E.A. Freeman in 1877, "All of the Orthodox subjects of the Turk were in most European eyes looked on alike as Greeks."(Mazower xxvii)
In chapter six of Cook's book titled Concerning the Russian religion, their churches, &c he begins by writing;

The Greeks have many holy-days. I imagine they have at least a saint for every day in the year; but they at the same time have many and very severe long fasts,. which, one with another, engross nearly one half of the year: they have also auricular confessions, invoke, and pray to saints.

The walls of their churches are hung round with pictures of saints, and some of them extremely rich. They make use of fumigations and holy water, extreme unction, passports for the dead, and prayers after death to relieve die dead out of purgatory. They have many other ceremonies, which I do not remember ; but the burial of Christ, and the sanctifying of the water, are the most remarkable. They baptize by three several immersions, and making the sign of the cross.

I was once at the celebration of the burial of Christ crucified, and, as I rightly remember, it was performed in the following manner in the metropolitan church in Astrachan
(Cook 46).

It is evident that the supposed "Greeks" Cook is referring to are in fact Russians of the Orthodox faith and the church in Astrachan (Astrakhan) is a church in Russia. As far as this is concerned the numerous references to "Greeks" in his book de-note religion. And in the case of Macedonia we see this is the case as well. Until well into the eighteenth century (and the 19th), all Balkan Orthodox believers were identified as "Greeks" by European observers (Hupchick 147). Western Europe considered all Balkan Christians as "Greeks" as a matter of course (Stoddard 222).

Another questionable factor of this page is the Physicians claims of the number of Macedonian Christians involved in this uprising. The number may very well have been exaggerated by the Physician. If we take into account that these 30,000 - 40,000 Macedonian Christians staged a peasant uprising, of which the facts are extremely minimal, then we must ask ourselves how true is this roundabout figure? It wouldn't be far fetched either considering the dilemma many of the Macedonian Christians faced day to day. Maybe 10,000 - 20,000 Macedonian Christians rose up in battle against the Ottomans. Maybe more-so or less-so. We may never know (unless someone checks the Ottoman archival records in Istanbul).

Apparently the Ottomans decimated the Macedonian Christians. And this may be fact considering the Ottomans were a trained, experienced, army of men who had fought larger opponents and beaten them with ease (Think East Roman Empire). The few trained Macedonians were most likely Haiduks, Mercenaries, or trained by Austrian or Russian agents. To what extent of arms the Macedonians carried is definitely unknown. But considering that the majority were peasants then we can say that they more than likely armed themselves with make-shift weaponry, farmer tools, or old heirlooms unfit for battle against the Ottomans.

Another interesting point about this text is Cook noting the Physician as a Macedonian. It may be a rare case of nationalism in a time where non existed in the Balkans amongst the masses. It would not be that far fetched that an educated man who was exposed to learning and western ideas espoused himself as a Macedonian considering the tide of the rising nationalism in Europe. But the reference to the persons of the uprising as Macedonian Christians is an accurate label of identity the people had in that era. Macedonians happily called themselves "Christians" which is a religious identity many balkanites used in description of themselves before the rise of nationalism.

Ultimately the heart of the people that rose up against this well oiled machine cannot be questioned. Macedonia was always ripe for rebellion and always ready to throw off their shackles. They wanted to free themselves from Turkish slavery and they had their hearts in the right place and an unquestionable bravery to match.

-Voyages and Travels: Through the Russian Empire, Tartary, and Part of the Persian Kingdom Volume II, John Cook MD

-The Balkans: A short history, Mark Mazower

-The Balkans: From Constantinople to Communism, Dennis Hupchick

-The Balkan Revolutionary Tradition, Dimitrije Djordjevic and Stephen Fischer-Galati

-The making of eastern Europe: from the earliest times to 1815, David Turnock

-Global History Volume I: The Ancient World to the Age of Revolution, Mark Willner, George Hero, Jerry Weiner

-Prospects of a Great Greece (The American review of reviews, Volume 50), T.L. Stoddard

-Peasant Rebellions (Encyclopedia of Social History), Steven Bela Vardy and Thomas Szendrey

-This Land We Do Not Give, Chris Stefou and Michael Seraphinoff

Recommended reading:
Military History of Macedonia by Vanche Stojchev (RIP).


Macedonian Struggle for Independence Part 11 - Macedonians in the Diaspora By Risto Stefov ... ov142.html
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Old 10-08-2018, 03:29 AM   #42
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Originally Posted by Soldier of Macedon View Post
I am going to play devils advocate here and say (in corroboration of an earlier 19th century article you have produced) that of the total population in the territory of the new Bavarian-led state, no more than 20% of the population (and most probably less) spoke Greek (Demotiki) as a first language.
Would you be able to expand on this SoM? It's something I'm pretty interested in at the moment: That being, how many people actually spoke a Hellenic language at the time of revolution?

Secondaly, if possible, would you or something else be able to explain how Demotic and Romaic differ? Or are they simply just different terms for roughly the same language.
I know of two tragic histories in the world- that of Ireland, and that of Macedonia. Both of them have been deprived and tormented.
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Old 10-31-2018, 07:30 PM   #43
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Originally Posted by TrueMacedonian View Post
Here's an interesting book I found. The author is John Cook M.D.

Here's a link to his book,M1 It was published in 1770.

If you do a search of the word "greek" in his book you will see that it always matches next to the words "religion" or "church" hence the term "greek" meant christian of the orthodox faith. Clearly he seperates Macedonia from "greece" as well as makes note to write of the Macedonian physician and Macedonian christians.

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Old 07-10-2019, 05:09 AM   #44
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I wonder if these early revolts is one of the main reasons that the Ohrid Archdiocese was abolished.
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Old 07-10-2019, 06:45 AM   #45
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Originally Posted by Stevce View Post
I wonder if these early revolts is one of the main reasons that the Ohrid Archdiocese was abolished.
Yes Stevce, precisely why. This was discussed further in another thread but I can't rememeber which one unfortunately.
I know of two tragic histories in the world- that of Ireland, and that of Macedonia. Both of them have been deprived and tormented.
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