Reuniting Europe

I receive a lot of Facebook messages inviting me to react in favour or against “OMO Ilinden – Pirin”, a separatist organization illegal in Bulgaria. This is what I would like to say on the matter.

I am myself from the Pirin region, I was born in Blagoevgrad. Perhaps I should start by translating some key words.

OMO means “United Macedonian Organization”. Ilinden is the name of the uprising in 1903 which marked the highest point of the struggle for liberation of the Bulgarians in Thrace and Macedonia, by then under Ottoman domination. It was aimed at reuniting these territories with Bulgaria and led by VMORO – “Internal Revolutionary Organization in Macedonia-Odrin”.

One of the leaders of the uprising and the most outstanding personality of those times is Gotse Delchev; unfortunately he was killed before it started. The uprising, badly planned, erupted on August 2 – Ilinden (St Ilia’s Day). Despite an initial success, 26 000 insurgents were soon faced with a 350 000 Turkish army. The uprising was crushed, thousands were killed and other thousands chose the exile into the Principality of Bulgaria. The Sultan made a shrewd offer: to halt the bloodshed if the Great powers press on Bulgaria to stop its aid for the uprising. Russia and the Austrian-Hungarian Empire sent notes to Sofia asking it not to interfere. Despite its failure, the uprising wakened the notion of the Macedonian problem in the European opinion.

After WW 1 Yugoslavia tried without success to assimilate the Macedonians as Serbian. Later in Tito’s Yugoslavia many efforts were made to create a Macedonian nation, with its own language (by introducing Serbian words in the Bulgarian) and history – by adapting episodes of the Bulgarian history to suit the design. By the way, two Serbian professors were the architects of this effort. According to historians from Skopie, the Ilinden uprising did not occur to serve the national reunification with Bulgaria, it was done to achieve autonomy, that is, for a Macedonian statehood… It doesn’t matter that the insurgents, all Bulgarians, fought under the Bulgarian flag.

Perhaps it is also important to remember that under the Communist regime Bulgaria managed to offer some responses to Belgrade despite the hold of Moscow, which was more sympathetic to its Yugoslav friends and openly and generously encouraged the Macedonian nation-building.

“OMO Ilinden-Pirin” is an organization aiming officially at promoting the rights of people in Bulgaria who consider themselves Macedonians. It has been attempting to register as a political party since the early 90’s, succeeding only in 1999, but the next year the Constitutional court has declared the party illegal on the grounds of separatism. Bulgaria considers that “OMO Ilinden-Pirin” in fact undermines the rights and freedoms of other people, by co-opting them as Macedonians. Even if a Macedonian minority would exist in Bulgaria, “OMO Ilinden-Pirin” does not seem interested in promoting their rights, but rather co-opting other people as Macedonians with the objective of separatism.

To add some figures, according to the national census in 2001 the number of people who have determined themselves as Macedonians in Bulgaria is 5071.

On June 25th 2006 in the city of Gotse Delchev in Bulgaria, the Constituent Assembly of the Party of Ethnic Macedonians “OMO Ilinden-Pirin” took place. According to the Bulgarian law, any new party has to submit to the Sofia court a request for registration in a 3-month period, together with the signatures of 5000 people. Stoyko Stoykov was elected Chairman of the party, and among his deputies is Stefan Mitsov, head of the Macedonian cultural and information center under the Macedonian Embassy in Sofia. According to the Bulgarian legislation a party can be formed if at least 500 people participate at its Constituent Assembly. According to the Bulgarian authorities the number of those present was much lower and many were under 18 years of age. Stoykov said that their political objective is the participation in the local elections next fall. The organisers prevented the journalists to attend the meeting, which is illegal.

In the meantime scandals erupted when it became obvious that “OMO Ilinden-Pirin” representatives were trying to buy signatures for amounts ranging between 10 and 50 leva. The Prosecution office in Blagoevgrad was seized by the leader of VMRO Krassimir Karakachanov with precise data for attempts to buy votes in the Roma neighborhood of Blagoevgrad. VMRO is a political party which until recently was represented in Parliament with historic roots dating back to 1893. Karakachanov said that it was no secret that “OMO Ilinden” is an organisation financed by the Macedonian secret services and is at the service of the pro-Serbian leadership in Skopie for undermining the relations between Bulgaria and Macedonia.

I hope this helps.

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  1. Dear Mr. Gotev,

    It is not the first time that journalists like you attempt to rewrite history or simplify some facts from history and use them as trivia…as if your interpretation of the historical Macedonian figures like Gotse Delchev is going to be taken for granted, and we are going to just put your “facts” into some new analysis for some issue…

    VMRO and the Ilinden uprising, was de facto the action for an autonomy of Macedonia! To say that “It was aimed at reuniting these territories with Bulgaria” is the most pathetic idea…but I do not feel the need to educate you on history and therefore I will only say one important thing about the lost friendship between Macedonians and Bulgarians – before the Russians gave you your autonomy, the Bulgarians and Macedonians have lived the same struggle for autonomy…but after the Russians help you get the autonomy with San Stefano, Bulgaria turned its back on the Macedonian people (in all ethnic ambiguity) and started a strong campaign with concessions on our identity, language and cultural heritage. The friendship IS LOST for ever…the TRUST is LOST forever. The proof that it is lost can also be witnessed in your text here….

    But, we can not blame a son of a fascist propagandist for these words in the text. We can blame the ongoing propaganda of the Bulgarian apparatus…stuck in time and with blind ambitions…

    Remeber! Makedonsko ime nema da zagine!

  2. Dear Risto,
    The Bulgarians and the Macedonians are the same people, and I cannot accept that friendship or trust is “lost forever”. I cannot also understand your mention of fascism.
    We don’t need to live in one big Bulgaria, I have nothing against Macedonia as a separate nation. But Skopje should not steal from his neighbours’ history, that’s the bottom line. If you notice, the Bulgarian, as real brothers, forgive, but the Greeks don’t.

  3. Dear Mr. Gotev,

    Although it would be really fun to contest your thesis that “Bulgarians and the Macedonians are the same people”, I do not have the time nor the tears of laughter to finish a sentence that could enlighten you on the issue.

    But it doesn’t matter. What matters is that such statements create antagonism, create apathy, and in the world of modern nation states (even Post Cold War if you like) there is no place for such concessions.

    Without going to back to historical facts, i will say something that portrays the political reality of the region, thus relating to the future of our relations and foreign affairs.

    3 Balkan nations/states lose with their propaganda (even contemporary) Serbia, Bulgaria and Greece. All three have concessions on territory, culture and language, with their own unique interpretations.
    If all three possessed that much of our identity, language, culture, history, as stronger states than Macedonia they would surely have MUCH MORE disputes, problems and INTERNATIONAL CONFLICTS BETWEEN THEMSELVES!!!

    BUT NO, Mr.Gotev, the issues by all three are being aimed and with systematic tactics in all social spheres where they can act against the Republic of Macedonia and the Macedonian people.

    You are very familiar with Diplomacy and International Relations Mr. Gotev! Your country’s EU status does not bring JUSTICE to the “Macedonian question” between Bulgaria and Macedonia.
    Nor does the EU status of Greece give legitimacy for its 19th century (neighborly) international relations.

    To invoke the question of JUSTICE, GOOD neighborly relations, your SUPPORT(?) for our future or even to suggest we are brothers as nations, is a political suicide for the intellect.

    Justice does not exist in the world of International Relations, and will not bring peace and stability to the Balkans until we can all formally settle some issues.

    But then who wants justice when one thinks he is stronger that the other right? When will your country want justice for the Macedonian people or thise who are not given the right to declare themselves as MACEDONIANS living in Bulgaria. The unfortunate meta-narrative for the Balkan is that it is BLOOD_AND_HONEY.

    Unfortunately, for now….Balkan policies and propaganda is still carefully shinning the guns…in all know Mr. Gotev…JUST IN CASE!

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