The work “Das Volksthum der Slaven Makedoniens” (The national character of the Slavs of Macedonia), written by Karl Hron as early as 1890, is an important testimony in the German-language literature on Macedonia. He was one of the first in the German-speaking area to oppose the agitations of Macedonia’s neighbors.
About Karl Hron
Karl Hron was an Austrian publicist and Macedonologist of Czech origin. After the death of his parents, he received his education at a Czech grammar school.
From 1869 to 1878 he served in the Austrian army in the Czech garrisons. In 1878 he was transferred to the Balkans, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. In 1882 he took part in the suppression of the uprising in Dalmatia. Due to his critical attitude towards his superiors, he was demobilized from military service in 1883.
He himself wrote about leaving the military: “I was punished for losing the rank of officer for a crime against the military hierarchy by criticizing the brigadier in writing.”
He then worked as a journalist for several years and moved to Serbia in 1886. There he worked as an inspector in a tobacco monopoly in Niš, Vranje, Leskovac and Prokuplje. Very soon, again because of an affair, he had to leave Serbia.
In 1888 he was editor of the Budapest newspaper Pester Lloyd. At that time he was on a trip through Bosnia, Montenegro, Albania and Macedonia. In Macedonia he was arrested by the Ottoman authorities as a possible agitator.
After leaving Macedonia and spending a short stay in Hungary, Hron traveled to Austria, where he worked as editor of the Deutsches Volksblatt. His stay in the South Slavic countries enabled him to get to know the languages and the history of the peoples. This made it easier for him to examine the political developments, among which the Macedonian question occupied a special place.
At that time, Karl Hron was a well-known publicist, best known for numerous articles on Pan-Slavism, Pan-Germanism and other topics relevant to his time.
“The national character of the Slavs of Macedonia”
In 1889 two events took place that caught the attention of Karl Hron and forced him to devote himself to the Macedonian question.
This year, the book “Topographisch-Ethnographische Review Macedoniens” (Topographic-Ethnographic Review of Macedonia) by Stefan Verković was published in St. Petersburg (Russia) and the book “Mazedonien und Altserbien” (Macedonia and Old Serbia) by Spiridon Gopcević was published in Vienna (Austria).
Both books are devoted to Macedonia, but with completely opposite views, describing pro-Bulgarian (Verković) and pro-Serbian (Gopcević) views on the ethnic character of Macedonians.
Hron decided to present his knowledge of the history of Macedonia and the ethnic character of the Macedonians. In the same year and the following year, 1890, he published his study “Das Volksthum der Slaven Makedoniens” as an independent publication in Vienna.
After a detailed analysis of the views expressed in Verković’s and Gopcević’s books, Hron refuted in his book Gopcević’s unscientific and purely political speculations. In the preface of the book, Hron points out:
“After a thorough study of the Serbian-Bulgarian dispute, I came to the conclusion that the Macedonians, both according to their history and their language, are a separate tribe, that is, neither Serbs nor Bulgarians, but the direct descendants of those Slavic immigrants who came to the Balkan Peninsula settled long before the Serbian and Bulgarian invasions and later mixed with neither of these two nations. “
Hron’s book has been heavily criticized in Serbia since its publication, while in Bulgaria it is still silent about it …
In current times like now, when Bulgaria is directly attacking the Macedonian language, it is essential to consider and recall Hron’s work. In his definition of the Macedonian language, Hron already corresponded to the view common today. So he wrote:
The “Macedonian dialect” is a language of its own […] which so far has no literature of its own and has therefore been based on the Bulgarian literature closest to it, but which is in no closer relation to it than that of a merely general relationship stands. Furthermore, it is certain that the Macedonian language is still closer to Bulgarian than to Serbian.
- Das Volksthum der Slaven Makedoniens (The national character of the Slavs of Macedonia) by Karl Hron, Vienna, 1890
- Mazedonienimaginationen in der deutschsprachigen Literatur seit dem 19. Jahrhundert (Macedonia imaginations in German-language literature since the 19th century) by Benjamin Langer, 2019, page 74
- Featured image from Kurt Hielscher’s photo collection, Children near Skopje, 1926