One of the biggest recent misconceptions in the past years about the Macedonians is the alleged “antiquization of Macedonia”. Since the beginning of the building project “Skopje 2014” in the Macedonian capital Skopje almost exactly ten years ago, critics have been trying to find the “fly in the ointment”. But this is by no means an architectural criticism.
Foreign media in particular were the ones who fabricated flimsy arguments. Which has since been widely used by anyone who is anti-Macedonian in ideology.
They tried to put the building project in a bad light, in short, a new word creation was fabricated: “Antiquization”.
Well, we’ve exaggerated a bit now, because the word “antiquization” actually exists in technical jargon and means something like (quote from the dictionary): “design in the style of antiquity; imitate antiquity”.
But in relation to the Macedonians, this word is a recent invention that has now stuck with the Macedonians in a threadlike taste. They were accused that their Prime Minister at the time, Nikola Gruevski, was not only antiquating the buildings, but also antiquating the Macedonian nation – even though, from their point of view, the Macedonians had nothing in common with ancient times.
Not only that, obscure tales and stories were fabricated, “the Macedonians have never felt connected to antiquity to date” – let’s say roughly in summary.
The fact that Alexander the Great is considered a Macedonian national hero is a result of Gruevski’s policies and the “many statues for a nationalist nation building in Skopje”.
The media did not shy away from labeling either. Macedonians who refer to Alexander the Great today are succinctly labeled as “nationalists” in the western media. See a quote from the Swiss newspaper NZZ:
“…In order to chisel in stone, so to speak, a past that is not always easy to authenticate – certain nationalists even make claims on Alexander the Great…”
The title of the article reads “Macedonia’s search for identity bears complicated fruit” (Die Identitätssuche Mazedoniens treibt komplizierte Blüten). How embarrassing, …
We read something similar in the book “Building History: Architectural Reconstruction and Nation Building from the 19th Century to the Present” (Geschichte bauen: Architektonische Rekonstruktion und Nationenbildung vom 19. Jahrhundert bis heute) by Arnold Bartetzky. He even goes so far as to claim that “Macedonia is trying to construct a lineage to the ancients”.
Is it really like that? Was Gruevski trying to construct something? Let’s put it this way, for those who are simply ignorant of Macedonian history, this argument of “Antiquization” might sound believable.
But, these should now continue reading in a concentrated manner. Because the following you will not get to read in such media or works as mentioned above as an example…
Macedonian emigrants and Alexander the Great in 1923
We will use an example to show that these are all just fairy tales and that the Macedonians have identified with the ancient Macedonians for generations. And there are plenty of them.
Not only will we refute this argument, moreover, we will show that Macedonians about 100 years ago listed exactly the same chronological order of Macedonian personalities as a Macedonian would do today. If you were to ask him which personalities Macedonia produced and marked the history of the Macedonians with their deeds.
Thus, in 1923 the s.g. “Ilinden Organization” printed a calendar with the oversized image of the Macedonian king Alexander the Great.
The Ilinden Organization was an emigrant organization of Macedonian revolutionaries who took part in the all-Macedonian Ilinden Uprising in 1903 and in the Macedonian liberation struggles in World War I. In the spring of 1921 the Ilinden Organization was founded in Sofia as a voluntary organization independent of cultural parties. (More about the organization at the end of the article).
“Macedonia and its Great Sons”
The heading of the calendar from 1923 (the year can be seen in the large image below) reads: Macedonia and its great sons!
And of course Alexander III of Macedon is listed as the first great son of Macedonia, who fills the entire page. “Alexander the Great – Tsar of the Macedonians” reads the caption.
Below the portrait of Alexander the Great we find a column with other great sons of Macedonia. There we read the headline: “Heroes – fighters for the freedom of Macedonia.”
These Macedonian hero fighters according to the Ilinden Organization in 1923 would be (left to right):
- Saints Cyril and Methodius
- Holy Naum of Ohrid
- Tsar Samoil
- Petar Karposh (maybe also Krali Marko)
- Traiko Kitančev
- Goce Delčev
- Dame Gruev
- Boris Sarafov
- Anastas Jankov
Who were the great sons of Macedonia?
We don’t have to say much about the first five figures: Alexander, Cyril and Method, Naum and Samoil are well known around the world as historical figures. For most Macedonians, this should also apply to IMRO members Goce Delčev and Dame Gruev, after all, these two freedom fighters are honored in the Macedonian anthem.
Likewise, Boris Sarafov is well known to most Macedonians, who was also a freedom fighter fighting the Ottomans like Delčev and Gruev.
When it comes to one picture, however, opinions differ. Since there is no exact written record of the images, the Macedonians are divided as to whether image number 4 in the column is King Marko or Petar Karposh. While many tend to gravitate towards Krali Marko, we think the beard and lightning bolt are hints to Karposh. Justifiable, of course, with the fact that he led an uprising against the Ottomans in 1689. This uprising is generally regarded in Macedonian historiography as the first uprising against the Turks.
Meanwhile, the other two big sons, Anastas Jankov and Trajko Kitančev, are less known. The latter was the first chairman of the s.g. “Supreme Macedonian-Adrianople Committee”. Also known as the “Supreme Macedonian Committee”. Also a political and revolutionary organization of Macedonians. This also included Jankov. He was one of IMRO’s fiercest ideological opponents, whether Macedonia was to be liberated from within with an insurrection or from without through Bulgarian/Russian intervention.
Macedonians! Remember the great conqueror of the world, the world glory of Macedonia, the great Alexander the Macedonian!
There is a record from Jankov which, in this context of an alleged Antiquization, is an important testimony that the arguments “Macedonian only became familiar with antiquity via Gruevski” can be silenced.
In 1902 Jankov reached the town of Kostur in Aegean Macedonia (modern Greek Kastoria) with a large group of freedom fighters and addressed the local population with the words:
“Macedonian! Remember the great conqueror of the world, the world glory of Macedonia, the great Alexander the Macedonian; Remember the brave King Samoil, the great Macedonian, the beautiful Krali Marko, the general Slavic glory that Macedonian blood flowed in them; They watch over the heavens and bless our endeavours. We as descendants should show ourselves worthy of them, to keep their glorious names and to amaze the world with our courage, skill and self-sacrifice; throw off the shameful yoke that has stifled us for five centuries.”
Antiquization of the Macedonians is a new big lie
As we have now seen, a so-called “antiquization of the Macedonian nation under Gruevski” cannot have taken place. For the very simple reason that the Macedonians did not need a doctrine of antiquization.
While Macedonians were and are aware of where their roots lie and who the forefathers of national history are, those outside Macedonia seem not to have realized it. Or just want to deny it.
The Macedonians a hundred years ago counted among their “national history heroes” Alexander the Great, the Saints Cyril and Methodius, and St. Naum. Tsar Samoil and the fighters against the Ottoman occupation, which lasted five centuries until 1913.
One should not forget here that at the time this calendar was published, the Macedonians had neither their own state, nor any unified state doctrine, neither an educational system nor anything else that would have been necessary to force an “antiquization” of the nation. On the contrary, many had become citizens of the newly Bulgarian state after fleeing their homeland (see Ilinden Organization section below).
It is therefore amazing that a Macedonian today, in 2020, would list almost exactly the same order of people if asked which personalities marked Macedonian history.
Perhaps with one difference, he might name even more personalities. Because, in the last hundred years, a few “great sons” have emerged in Macedonia who fought for Macedonia’s freedom…
The Ilinden Organization was an emigrant organization of Macedonian revolutionaries who took part in the all-Macedonian Ilinden Uprising in 1903 and in the Macedonian liberation struggles in World War I. It was founded in Sofia in the spring of 1921 as a voluntary organization independent of cultural parties.
The Macedonian emigrant organization had its own newspaper “Ilinden”, which appeared from July 30, 1921 under the editorship of A. Panov.
Such Macedonian expatriate organizations were established in several cities. The founding congress of the organization was held in Sofia (January 19-21, 1923), the constitution was adopted, the leadership of 7 members was elected with President Georgi Zankov. The organization has commented with editor Arsenij Jovkov on Macedonia’s autonomy and independence in the Balkan Federation, represented by the Ilinden Board.
In 1924, after the assassination of the editor Jovkov, it fell under the influence of the Inner Macedonian Revolutionary Organization VMRO/IMRO.
At the Second Congress of the organization (July 12-13, 1925), Zankov and Jovkov were (posthumously) expelled from the leadership. The new heads started publishing a new newspaper “Illustration Ilinden” under the leadership of P. Mrmev and Hristo Shaldev (see picture, December 1927 issue).
After the coup in Bulgaria on May 19, 1934, the organization was banned. It resumed its activities during World War II (1941–1944).
After September 9, 1944, publication of the Ilinden illustration was discontinued. On July 21, 1945 a new leadership was elected: Stefan Avramov – President, Milan Angelov (Vice-President), Secretary Nikola Paunchev and Marisa Kazaski, Nikola Konstantinov (Treasurer) and two councilors Bozin Prodanov and Toma Karchov. The leadership was loyal to the new Bulgarian communist government, with the exception of Bozin Prodanov, who was expelled from the leadership a year later.
In October 1946, the organization’s members fulfilled their vow to transfer the remains of Goce Delchev to the capital of Free Macedonia.
On June 15, 1947, the Bulgarian authorities dissolved the organization.
- Macedonia’s search for identity is blossoming in a complicated way (Die Identitätssuche Mazedoniens treibt komplizierte Blüten) – a photo tableau by Michal Siarek, NZZ, by Angela Schader and Gilles Steinmann
- Building History: Architectural Reconstruction and Nation Building from the Nineteenth Century to the Present (Geschichte bauen: Architektonische Rekonstruktion und Nationenbildung vom 19. Jahrhundert bis heute) by Arnold Bartetzky
- Ilinden Organization, Wikipedia in Macedonian
- Anastas Jankov, Wikipedia in Macedonian
Quote from Jankov:
- “Rad makedonskih komiteta,” Branik, XVIII, 131, Novi Sad, 26.IX / 9.10. 1902, page 2
- “Povik kon Makedoncite”, potpišan od polkovnik A. Jankov i 28 vnatrešni revolucioni rakovoditeli (v. “Reformi”, pp. 30-31, 14.09.1902)
This article was written and published on April 21, 2020 by Macedonia News in German (mazedonien-news.mk), translated by history.mk