Home Modern history Étienne Burnet – Every child says proudly like Alexander, ‘I am Macedonian’

Étienne Burnet – Every child says proudly like Alexander, ‘I am Macedonian’


The work to which we are dedicated today comes from France. We quote a short but very important passage. The work was written by the Frenchman Étienne Burnet. His work is called “La Tour Blanche – Army d’Orient 1916-1917“.

Burnet was a contemporary witness of the First World War. He was in 1916-1917 stationed at the so-called Macedonian Front (also called Salonica Front). In addition, Burnet was a respected academic, you will read this in a moment when we introduce him to you.

Who was Etienne Burnet?

Étienne Burnet was a French doctor, bacteriologist, and immunologist. He was born on October 11, 1873 in Maurupt-le-Montois and died on December 20, 1960 in Tunis.

His full name was Étienne Charles Marie Placide Burnet, and the son of the teacher Jean Baptiste Isidore Cyrille and Clémence Eugénie Munier.

In 1890 he won the first history award at the Concours Général. In 1903 he joined the Pasteur Institute in Paris as a preparer and rose through the ranks.

During the First World War, he was assigned to the army’s bacteriological laboratory in 1915. He officiates in Corfu and Salonica (Thessaloniki), where epidemics of dysentery, cholera and malaria spread in those time.

Read also: Alexander the Great was not quite a Greek by Bertrand Russell

In 1919 he traveled to Tunisia, to the Pasteur Institute in Tunis, where he was promoted to deputy director. In 1926 he became deputy director in Tunis.

Burnet returned to Europe, to Geneva, where (between 1928 and 1936) he was appointed Secretary of the Committees of the League of Nations Health Organization.

They say proudly like Alexander: I am Macedonian!

As you have now seen, the person Étienne Burnet was definitely a very important person in terms of the academic degree. That is why this testimony seems all the more important! Moreover, he was not a politician who followed politics.

The following quote, which we take from his work, is even attested with a date. Accordingly, this scene took place on May 7, 1917. Because the Burnet book is written chronologically.

So we read (on page 80/81):

… An army translator – a Montenegrin – explained his theory about the Macedonian people to me. He attributes them to the Slavic migrations in the 9th century. The Macedonian country has a common labeling of these populations with local variants. Twenty years would be enough for a European power to win it over. Freed from the Turks, who kept them obedient by conquering the good country, they only want to be ruled by a rich patron who brings money.

He can be right. At least in Lower Macedonia, if you ask a street child there: “What are you? Greek? A Serb? Bulgarians?”, they answer proudly like Alexander:” I am Macedonian! “…

La tour blanche

Used and quoted literature:

  • La Tour Blanche – Army d’Orient 1916-1917, Étienne Burnet
  • Wikipedia, French, profile about Burnet
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