Petko Slaveykov was one of the most famous Bulgarian folklorists in history. He was born in 1827 and died in 1895. Even then he complained that the Macedonians did not see themselves as Bulgarians, but as Macedonians.
Even more, he left us a testimony which shows why the Macedonians did not consider themselves Bulgarians at that time. Because exactly the opposite view is part of the modern Bulgarian doctrine, that Macedonians are Bulgarians and belong to the Bulgarian ethnos…
Petko Rachov Slaveykov
First of all, some information about the author:
Petko Rachov Slaveykov (born November 17, 1827 in Tarnovo, then Ottoman Empire; died July 13, 1895 in Sofia, Bulgaria) was a Bulgarian poet, publicist, politician, folklorist and one of the activists of the Bulgarian National Revival.
Slaveykov was born in Tarnovo to the family of the coppersmith Racho. Slaveykov’s great-grandfather’s roots were in Yakoruda, Pirin Macedonia, but later he moved to Tryavna. His grandfather settled afterwards in Tarnovo. His mother, Penka, died during the birth but miraculously, he survived. In the village of his mother, Vishovgrad, Petko saw nightingales (slavey in Bulgarian), which impressed him so much that he decided to change his family name to Slaveykov.
From 1864 to 1874 he lived in Constantinople (today’s Istanbul). He published several newspapers, the Gaida newspaper from 1863 to 1867 and the Makedonija newspaper from 1866 to 1872. He calls for the first Bulgarian children’s magazine and the country’s first women’s magazine. His poems also relate to modern Bulgarian literature.
Petko Slaveykov was chairman of the Bulgarian parliament between April 7, 1880 and December 10, 1880, Minister of Education between December 10, 1880 and December 29, 1880, Minister of Interior between December 29, 1880 and May 9, 1881, and between July 11, 1884 and February 12, 1885 of the Principality of Bulgaria.
He had a total of eight children, including the later politicians Iwan Slaveykov and Christo Slaveykov, the publicist Racho Slaveykov and the poet Pecho Slaveykov. Slaveykov Peak, a mountain on Smith Island in Antarctica, has been named after him since 2006.
Experiences after trip to Macedonia – We are not Bulgars but Macedonians!
He came to Macedonia, among other things, to collect folklore in Macedonia as part of Bulgarian folklore, but as he himself wrote, the people in Macedonia replied that they were not Bulgarians. More over, they declared themselves as descendants of the ancient Macedonians.
He published those words in an article called “The Macedonian Question”, published in the newspaper Makedonija in Constantinople on January 18, 1871. There he mentions that people in Macedonia declare themselves as a separate people – namely, as Macedonians.
“We have often heard from the Macedonians that they are not Bulgarians but Macedonians, descendants of the ancient Macedonians, and we have always waited for evidence of this, but we never got it. The Macedonians have never shown us the basis of such an opinion. They oppose us by seeing themselves as Macedonians, which they cannot prove at all. We have also heard other claims. Some Macedonians are separated from us by the reason: that they are pure Slavs and the Bulgarians were Tatars, or what I don’t know what we would be”.
We are descendants of Alexander the Great
In another source we find even the record of Slaveykov, that Macedonians considered themselves as descendants of the most popular Macedonian king Alexander the Great! In a letter from 1874.
Slaveykov refers to the Macedonians as “Bulgarians of Macedonia”, and, that they believe that they are the “better Bulgarians”. In his view, this was the result introduced by “Serbian and Greek propaganda”. Furthermore, these “Bulgarians of Macedonia” as he states, believe that they [the Macedonians] should lead the “Bulgarian people”.
…that they are not Bulgarians, but Macedonians, ie. something higher than the other Bulgarians (Alexander’s descendants!)…
The excerpt of the letter according to a book from Tsocho Bilyarski and Iliya Paskov, published in Sofia 1989:
The cunning and unscrupulous sermons of Monsignor Neil, the foolish perseverance of the local Orthodox man, the schism, the uncluttered sentences (preachers) are the levers of the movement; but the most dangerous enemy is this: To the few small ambitious Bulgarians from Macedonia who, out of close love for their homeland and an incomprehensible preference for their native language, which seduced them to work for its supremacy, have recently been joined by Serbian propaganda and Greek propaganda. who, without showing the population their second thoughts, suggest to them very pernicious ideas: e.g. that they are not Bulgarians, but Macedonians, ie. something higher than the other Bulgarians (Alexander’s descendants!) that they can and should be leaders of the Bulgarian people, because the Bulgarian hierarchy was and is theirs, with such sermons of foreigners, supported by our fools, irritating the population, they have arrived to spread these thoughts contentedly and to set them on the perilous path of separation, and the first fruits of these sermons are: the distrust of the Exarchate and the secret opposition to its efforts to unite them in ecclesiastical terms.
The litter of this nasty and pernicious thought is today for today Veles, from where I made very heavy and sad impressions. They want the type and character of the place where their city lies. Proud, steep and high-minded like the rocks, sublime that surrounds them, but like them and barren and inaccessible, limited and short-sighted as the horizon in their place, and violent as the current of the Vardar, as foaming and pushing to break through and push their ideas…
- Tsocho Bilyarski – Iliya Paskov, Pisma na Petko Rachev Slaveĭkov po uniyata v Makedoniya prez 1874g., “Vekove”, XVIII, 1, Sofia, 1989, p. 73-74
- Newspaper Makedonija, “The Macedonian Question”, January 18, 1871