Home Modern history ‘Macedonian Syndrome’ – Secret CIA report on Bulgaria

‘Macedonian Syndrome’ – Secret CIA report on Bulgaria


Today we are presenting two CIA reports from our archive. The two reports are from following years, the first from 1971, the second 1972. These reports give a clear picture of Bulgaria’s position towards Macedonia. The 1971 CIA report could be a reflection of Bulgaria’s view today. In this the positions of Bulgaria are explained, as well as the “origin” of the “Macedonian Syndrome”. Whereas the 1972 report shows the oppression of Macedonians in Bulgaria. Likewise, a reflection of today’s politics in the neighboring country, which negates the existence of the Macedonian nation and language.

“Macedonian Syndrome – A Chronic Crisis in Yugoslav-Bulgarian Relations” is the title of a secret document from the American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) from early 1971, which, according to the “Financial Times”, was only released decades later.

The 12-page report, now available in the CIA archives, gives a very detailed picture of the complicated relations between Yugoslavia and Bulgaria in the late 1960s, describes the historical roots of the Macedonia problem and precisely analyzes the rise of Bulgarian nationalism. Which, by the way, in relation to Macedonia, has the same parameters as today.

“According to Sofia, all Macedonians are ethnic Bulgarians”

At the beginning of the document we read:

“During the past four years, streams of mutual attacks have flowed between Yugoslavia and Bulgaria over a seemingly obscure, historically controversial issue, namely – the ethnic and linguistic origins of the peoples of the Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.”

The Yugoslavs claim that this riot was due to the acute irredentism of the Bulgarians. For Sofia, the Macedonia issue is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the regime uses it for internal use as the only unproblematic outlet for Bulgarian nationalism, without the threat of Moscow’s interference.

Even the Yugoslavs do not believe that Sofia currently intends to retake Yugoslav Macedonia by force. On the other hand, there is no doubt that Bulgarian leaders will seek every opportunity to weaken Belgrade’s hold over Macedonia in the post-Tito era, and they are already preparing with firm, pretentious demands for their rights in Macedonia.

According to the report’s authors, communist Bulgaria’s perception that there was no separate Macedonian nation and language was still perceived as a threat by Yugoslavia. They write: 

“According to Sofia’s claim, all Macedonians are actually ethnic Bulgarians, cut off from their homeland. This opinion comes from the pre-communist era in Bulgaria.

According to the Treaty of San Stefano of 1878, the new Bulgarian state gained control over the Macedonian lands for the first time. A few months later, the great powers take over this territory and later give it to Serbia (today part of Yugoslavia). Since then, most Bulgarian governments have laid claims to this area, although it was under Sofia’s control for a total of only four years after 1878.”

After a brief historical overview of what happened in the region after World War II, the report briefly discusses plans for a Balkan federation, which persisted for a period after the Tito-Stalin conflict in 1948. The authors then write about the rise of the “Zhivkov clique” and the repressions of the communists in Bulgaria after the seizure of power. With the approval of Moscow, the Bulgarian communists are gradually reviving the myth of San Stefano Bulgaria, the authors further note, adding:

“The Macedonian question revived with the ill-conceived campaign of Todor Zhivkov in early 1965. The aim was to awaken the national spirit and patriotic feelings of young people in Bulgaria, which was emotionally stagnant at the time.

The dispute over Macedonia became mainly a means of building national pride, which was damaged by the subservience of the Bulgarian Communist Party [to the Soviet Union – b.p.]. There are studies that “analyze” the relations between the Macedonian people and Bulgaria in the past.

The party re-examines its previous positions on the Macedonian question and concludes that by withdrawing its claims to Macedonia it has taken a wrong and “non-Leninist” position. It was claimed that “in this way, Bulgaria accepted foreign rule in a region dominated by the Bulgarian population”. In the autumn of 1966, the President of the Union of Bulgarian Writers went so far as to deny the existence of a separate Macedonian language, claiming that it was a variant of Bulgarian.

That same year, a prominent ethnographer publicly expressed his disapproval of an article published in a Soviet journal claiming that Macedonians were a distinct nation or people. In the spirit of the San Stefano Accords, many Bulgarian scientists and politicians have published article after article to defend the claim that Macedonia is ethnically, historically and spiritually part of the Bulgarian nation.”

The report also speaks of Todor Zhivkov’s speech to Bulgarian youth in December 1967, in which he emphasized the expansion of “patriotic education”. According to the communist leader, Bulgarians do not use their glorious history enough to educate young people in the spirit of patriotism.

The invasion of Czechoslovakia by Warsaw Pact troops in 1968 and the Prague Spring debacle, in which the NRA was involved, fueled further tensions between Bulgaria and Yugoslavia, CIA analysts noted.

After the Yugoslav leader Tito’s harsh criticism of this invasion, Bulgaria stepped up its propaganda against Yugoslavia and launched a new diplomatic campaign – apparently with the consent of the USSR, the authors write, recalling that BAN published a statement in November 1968 alleging Macedonia never existed ethnically, nationally and linguistically as a separate nation from Bulgaria. The report also speaks of Bulgaria’s claims that it “liberated” Macedonia in 1944 – claims that have nothing to do with reality.

YOU MUST READ: Macedonians make up half of Bulgaria’s population – Washington Times

Gradually, the Yugoslav leadership realized that the Bulgarian campaigns in relation to Macedonia were clearly coordinated with Moscow, CIA analysts write and cite a Yugoslav document entitled Ghosts of the Past, published in the Belgrade newspaper Borba and in the Skopje’s Nova Makedonija, accusing Bulgaria of “civil territorial claims” against Macedonia and parts of Serbia that were “trusted” to it under the San Stefano Accords. However, the real culprit in all of this is Tsarist Russia, which created the San Stefano fiction, the article states.

“Let’s ask what the Bulgarian claims are based on”

Towards the end of the 1971 US intelligence report we read:

“In a report on foreign policy issues dated November 18, 1970, distributed to all houses of the Federal Parliament of Yugoslavia, Yugoslav President Tito was quoted as saying: “To understand what is behind the revival of the Bulgarian revanchist demon, we must ask us on what basis the Bulgarian claims are based”.

Three explanations are possible: First, to divert public attention from the internal crisis by asserting territorial claims. Second, the belief that the Yugoslav federation would break up, which would be a unique opportunity for Bulgaria to take advantage.

And third, that someone else is behind the Bulgarian claims – meaning that our neighboring country’s leadership is dependent on foreign support… Time will tell how justified our suspicions are, but from what we know at the moment, we don’t have any positive ones Expect change in Bulgaria’s policy towards Yugoslavia in the future”.

Yugoslavia broke up and independent Macedonia was first recognized by Bulgaria, after which it followed a complicated political path and is now called North Macedonia. Regardless, the parallels to what has been happening in Sofia-Skopje relations in recent years are more than obvious. That is why this document, written more than 50 years ago, is worth reading.

1972 CIA report testifies to repression of ethnic Macedonians in Bulgaria

The CIA report, file number CIA-RDP01-00707R000200110035-5, from the following year 1972 testifies the oppression of ethnic Macedonians living in Bulgaria. This does not mean guest workers, but Macedonians who live in Pirin Macedonia. This is the part of Macedonia given to Bulgaria by the Great Powers. As can be seen from the formerly secret document, the policy of Macedonia’s neighboring country today is a legacy of the “Bulgarian communist regime” era.

A key message of the CIA report is, we quote:

“The Bulgarian regime forbids all political activity associated with Macedonian nationalism and suppresses cultural activity which is uniquely Macedonian, i.e. songs and folklore. Moreover, unlike the Turkish minority, Macedonians are not permitted to have schools in their native tongue.”

Part of the report is an overview map that graphically depicts the distribution of ethnic minorities in Bulgaria. According to the Bulgarian census mentioned in the report, the demographics of Bulgaria were as follows:

85.3% Bulgarians, 8.5% Turks, 2.6% Roma, 2.5% Macedonians, 0.3% Armenians, (and others).

In the  section of the report “C./Population”, we find more specific references to the ethnic Macedonian minority, as well as the other minorities. According to the 1972 CIA report, the counting of the Macedonians by the Bulgarian regime is made more difficult.

“Any estimate of the Macedonian population is very tenous and is complicated by the official Bulgarian claims, espoused since 1958, that Macedonians are not a separate national group but instead are a subgroup of the Bulgarian nation”.

In the section “D./Structure and Characteristics of Society-Ethnic Composition and Languages”, we find even more detailed information from the CIA about the Macedonian minority in Bulgaria in the post-war years. As well as how they were systematically suppressed. Also, the idea of a united and independent Macedonia was widespread among Macedonians.

Significantly large numbers of Macedonians live in contiguous areas of neighboring Yugoslavia and Greece, and some Macedonians still hope for a united Macedonia composed of territory from all three states.

The 1972 CIA report was already presented by us, You can read it here: CIA report testifies oppression of Macedonians in Bulgaria

Exit mobile version