“The only one for me is you, and you for me/So happy together” — “Happy Together” by The Turtles, 1967

Macedonia and Ilinden. And now introducing Bulgaria.

“To destroy a people, you must first sever their roots.” — Alexander Solzhenitsyn

August 2, 1903: the Ilinden Uprising of the Macedonians for their freedom begins.

August 2, 2017: celebration by the Macedonians, and now happy together with the Bulgarians apparently, of the Ilinden Uprising because both peoples interpret this event and the histories of both countries and people in exactly the same way, because the Macedonians, after all, really are Bulgarians.

Oh, wait, that’s not right. Except that it is something the new Macedonian government led by Zoran Zaev wants Macedonians to believe and agree with. Which is why on August 1 he signed the so-called “good neighborly relations” agreement with Bulgaria. The one demanded by Bulgaria. The one, which, among other things, celebrates the “common history” of the two peoples and nations. Except for the fact of course that the Bulgarians do not, never have and never will recognize the Macedonians as a separate people with a separate language and history of their own.

But let’s back up a bit. What are the problems with this agreement? I want to focus on only two (there are many more and the links provided below clearly spell those out). The preamble of the agreement states that both Macedonia and Bulgaria “share a common history” which connects the two countries and peoples. Yes, to a degree that is true. England and the United States also have a common history that connects our two countries and peoples. But the events of 1776, to take just one example, are seen very differently. The United Macedonian Diaspora (UMD), in their condemnation of this agreement, stated that “the interpretation of that ‘common history’ is not the same.” UMD makes additional excellent points against this agreement and as American writer Rod Dreher says, read the whole thing (Article 8.2 states that Macedonia and Bulgaria, within three months of the agreement coming into force, will create joint commissions that will make a determination on what their history actually is).

The second point I want to make is that ironically, Zoran Zaev may have authored his own political death warrant in signing the Agreement. Article 11 and in particular Article 11.6 commits Macedonia to taking effective measures to prevent negative propaganda by “institutions and agencies” and to “discourage the activities of private entities” (meaning private citizens, businesses, faith institutions, NGOs, you name it) that would incite “violence, hatred or other similar acts” that would harm the relationship between Macedonia and Bulgaria. I do not subscribe to the modern trend of labeling things as “hate speech” and this article shows the absurdity of such things (people should be free to say whatever they want — but that is a different issue from personal responsibility and exercising that responsibility). In this example, if private citizens, businesses, or other institutions say and/or transmit language which the Bulgarians deem “hateful” then the Bulgarians will file official complaints with the government of Macedonia and they will demand that the government of Macedonia crack down on such free speech and language. If the government of Macedonia does not, the Bulgarian government will refuse to support Macedonia in its NATO and EU aspirations. If the government of Macedonia does crack down on such free speech and language, then we will have even greater problems. But in lavishing praise on the agreement, this is something the Embassy of the United States, and other Western embassies, either did not take into account or, more likely, do not care about. This is a fact — either way the Bulgarians will object to the free speech of individuals and the freedom of the press in Macedonia when Macedonians defend, through their language and speech, the rights of Macedonians in Bulgaria and/or take the Bulgarians to task for denying that the Macedonians, or the Macedonian language, exists; the Bulgarians, in the name of “good neighborly relations” will demand an end to this freedom of speech and freedom of the press. As the Macedonia Human Rights Movement International says “Bulgaria will insist on the acceptance of the Bulgarian view of the history of Macedonia becoming a condition for the gaining of membership of European institutions under the guise of ‘good neighbourliness.’’” Again, read the whole thing.

And Zoran Zaev and his government now own all of this.

And here’s a point worth contemplating: If Zoran Zaev and his government of SDSM and their ethnic Albanian partners are willing to negotiate this agreement without input from the opposition or public, what do you think they will do when it comes time for them to negotiate the name and identity?

What was the point of Ilinden and all of the struggles since then if not to preserve and protect a sovereign and free Macedonia and the Macedonians? We can learn what the point was by listening to the voices of the patriotic men and women of the Ilinden Uprising, even today. Long-dead men and women tell us what they were fighting for and why — Mate Petrov Boškoski of Krusevo affirms, regarding many of the patriots, “all of them were active members of the movement for the liberation of Macedonia and involved in the preparations of the Ilinden Uprising.” Donka Bučakovska, also of Krusevo, testifies “Our goal was liberation from the grave oppression of the Turkish authorities, under which Macedonia and the Macedonian people had groaned for centuries….[The promise of] the first People’s Republic and the glorious Ilinden Uprising of the Macedonian people, as well as my anger toward our age-long oppressors, prompted me to take up this cause.” Božin Stefanov Ilievski, of Bitola, confirms “Before, during and after the Ilinden Uprising I assisted the cause of liberation of the Macedonian people.” Riste Kolev Stamboldžijovski of Smilevo admits “Hatred grew inside me, and I craved freedom for our enslaved Macedonian people.” Finally, Velika Hristova Dimitrova of Bitola asserts “…my husband’s family was a revolutionary one and participated actively in the struggles for the liberation of the Macedonian people.”

These voices, and thousands of others, remind us today and for all time what Macedonians fought for. And that’s why Macedonians continue the fight today. To preserve and protect Macedonia, the Macedonian people, the Macedonian church, language, and culture to be handed down to each successive generation. Because Macedonia is worth it.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Jason Miko

Proud American & Arizonan w/Hungarian ethnicity & passion for Macedonia, Hungary & Estonia. Traveler, PR man, history buff & wine, craft beer & cigar enthusiast