The Slav-Speakers

Slavophone is one thing and Slav another!

Various sets of statistics saw the light of day during the period of intense Greek-Bulgarian conflict concerning the ethnological composition of the Macedonian population. The numerical data given fluctuate wildly, since the sets of statistics were based on different criteria and were designed to serve the national ambitions of those who compiled them.

When it was ruled by the Ottoman Empire, Macedonia was divided administratively into two vilayets, those of Thessaloniki and Monastir. The general inspector of vilayets had his headquarters in Thessaloniki, and in the run-up to the Balkan Wars this post was held by Hilmi Pasha. His census of 1904 must be a close approximation to the real situation; it gives the following proportions of Greeks and Bulgarians:

 

Greeks

Bulgarians

Vilayet of Thessaloniki

373,227

207,317

Vilayet of Monastir

261,283

178,412

Total

634,510

385,729

In an interview with the French writer Paillares, Hilmi Pasha had the following to say about the Slav-speakers: "My view, and the view of my government, is that these people are Greeks. We classify our subjects according to the churches and schools they fre quent. Unless violent pressure is applied to them, these people call themselves Greeks." (8).

As early as 1871, the Russian author Golonbiuski wrote that "these so-called Greeks display towards anything Bulgarian or Slav a more relentless hatred and more profound contempt than even real Greeks would have done" (9). And in amemorandum which the inhabitants of the Monastir area sent to the French government in 1903, they expressed the point more eloquently than any traveller could do:

"We speak Greek, Bulgarian and Albanian; that does not make any of us the less Greek, nor do we permit anyone to call our Greekness into question" (10).

Further proof of the Greekness of the Slav-speakers and of the inhabitants of the area in general is to be found in the educational organisation of the Greeks of Macedonia. In the Monastir area there were 284 Greek schools, of which the town of Monastir alone had a secondary school, a teacher training school, a girls' school, a boys' school, a seminary, an 'urban academy' and 14 primary schools. In Krushevo there was a junior secondary school, a girls' high school, a boys' high school, four primary schools and a nursery school. There were primary schools, girls' schools, institutes of advanced education and nursery schools in Megarovo, Trnavo, Milosista, Nizopoli, Gopesi, Upper and Lower Belista, Brusnik, Lahci, Bukovo, Stromnita, Gevgeli and Meleniko.

In some cases, the Greeks may have lost their language as a result of living in close proximity with members of other races, but they never lost their sense of nationality. Greek education kept that sense alive even when it was delivered in Slav or Viach.

The area which was incorporated into Greece after the Balkan Wars included the greater part of the vilayets of Thessaloniki and Monastir. Over the next ten to

fifteen years (to 1925), tremendous shifts of population took place and radically altered the ethnological composition of the area. During the period of wartime (191 2-1919), scores of thousands of Bulgarians left the area, a trend which continued with the departure of 53,000 Bulgarians by virtue of the agreement for the voluntary exchange of populations between Greece and Bulgaria. Only the Slavspeakers of western Macedonia remained: the majority of this population was Greek in terms of national consciousness and had chosen of their own free will to stay in Greece.

The League of Nations produced the following statistics for Greek Macedonia in 1926, when the exchange of populations between Greece and Turkey had also been completed:

Greeks

1,341,000

88%

Muslims

2,000

0.1%

Bulgarians

77,000

5.1%

Miscellaneous (mostly Jews)

91,000

 6.0%

Total

1,511.000

 

  In 1924, within the framework of the League of Nations, Greece and Bulgaria signed a protocol (known as the 'Kalfoff Politis protocol') by which Greece recognised as Bulgarian the Slav-speaking population which had remained on its territory. However, there was such an outcry in Greece (while at the same time Serbia reacted by abrogating the Greek-Serbian Treaty of Alliance of 1913) that the Greek Parliament refused to ratify the protocol and the League of Nations released Greece from the obligations which it had undertaken.

Home | The FYROMians | Is there Macedonia Nation? | Is there Macedonian Minority? | Is there Macedonia Language? | The Slav-Speakers