One of the biggest recent misconceptions regarding the Macedonians is about to be resolved today – the alleged ‘antiquisation of Macedonia’. Since the construction project Skopje 2014 was started in the Macedonian capital almost exactly ten years ago, critics have tried to find the “fly in the soup”. But this is by no means an architectural criticism.
Foreign media in particular were those who made a flimsy argument. Which has been widely used by everyone who can be labelled as ‘anti-Macedonian’.
In short, the argument that was used to try to turn the building project into a bad light was also a new word creation: “Antiquisation”.
Well, we have exaggerated a bit, because the word “antiquisation” itself exists in the technical language and means something like: “to shape in the style of antiquity; imitate antiquity ”.
In relation to the Macedonians, however, this word is a new invention that has now stuck to the Macedonians with a threadbare taste. They were accused of having their then Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski not only antiquing the buildings, but also antiquing the Macedonian nation – even though, from their point of view, the Macedonians have nothing in common with antiquity.
Not only that, obscure stories and pamphlets were fabricated, “the Macedonian has never felt connected to the ancient world” – let’s say roughly in summary.
The fact that Alexander the Great is seen as a Macedonian national hero is a result of Gruevski’s policy and the “many statues for the nationalist nation building in Skopje”.
Is it really like that? Was Gruevski trying to construct something like an ‘Antiquisation of Macedonia’? For those who simply have no clue about Macedonian history, this ‘antiquisation’ argument might sound plausible.
But, you should now read on in a concentrated manner. Because you will not get to read the following example in such mainstream media or statements…
Macedonian immigrants and Alexander the Great in 1923
That these accusations are just fairy tales, and that the Macedonians have been identifying with the ancient Macedonians for generations, we will show here with two examples. And believe, there are enough of such evidences.
Not only will we refute this argument, more than that, we will show that 100 years ago Macedonians enumerated the exact same chronological sequence of historical 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.
To begin with, the so-called “Ilinden Organization” published in 1923 a calendar with the oversized image of the Macedonian king Alexander the Great.
The Ilinden Organization was an emigration organization of the Macedonian revolutionaries who took part in the Macedonian Ilinden uprising in 1903 and in the liberation struggles of Macedonia in World War I. The Ilinden organization was founded in Sofia in the spring of 1921 as a voluntary and non-cultural organization.
“Macedonia and its great sons”
The heading of the calendar from 1923 (the year can be seen in the large picture at the bottom right) reads: Macedonia and its great sons!
And of course Alexander is listed as the first great son of Macedonia, who fills almost the entire page with a huge picture. “Alexander the Great – Tsar of the Macedonians” reads the caption.
Under the image of Alexander III of Macedonia we find a column with other great sons of Macedonia. There we read the sub-heading: “Heroes – fighters for the freedom of Macedonia”.
These Macedonian hero fighters would be, according to the Ilinden Organization in 1923 (from left to right):
- Saints Cyril and Method
- Holy Naum of Ohrid
- Tsar Samoil
- Petar Karposh or Krali Marko
- Trajko Kitanchev
- Goce Delcev
- Dame Gruev
- Boris Sarafov
- Anastas Jankov
Who were the ‘Great sons of Macedonia’?
We don’t have to waste any big words about the first five: Alexander III of Macedon, Cyrill and Methodius, Naum and Samoil are well known around the world as historical figures. For most Macedonians, this should also apply to the IMRO* members Goce Delcev and Dame Gruev, after all, these two freedom fighters are glorified today in the Macedonian anthem. (*Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization).
Boris Sarafov is also known to most Macedonians, who was also a freedom fighter in the struggle against the Ottoman rule in Macedonia like Delcev and Gruev.
Opinions differ when it comes to one particular picture. Since there is no precise written record of the pictures, the Macedonians are divided into two parties, whether picture number 4 (from left) in the column is about King Marko or Petar Karposh. Even if many tend to prefer Krali Marko, but it could also be the portrait Karposh. Justified, of course, with the fact that he led an uprising against the Ottomans already in 1689. This is generally regarded in modern Macedonian historiography as the first Macedonian uprising against the Turks. But, in writings of this era in the early 20th century, plenty of Macedonian intellectuals wrote more about Krale Marko instead Karposh.
The other two great sons of Macedonia, Anastas Jankov and Trajko Kitanchev, are meanwhile less well known. The latter was the first chairman of the so-called “Supreme Macedonian Adrianople Committee”. Also known as the “Macedonian Supreme Committee”. Also a political and revolutionary organization of the Macedonians.
Jankov also belonged to this group. He was one of the fiercest ideological opponents of IMRO, whether Macedonia should be liberated from the inside with an uprising or from the outside through intervention by Bulgaria or/and Russia.
Macedonians! Remember the Great Conqueror of the world, the world fame of Macedonia, the Great Alexander the Macedonian!
There is a tradition of Jankov which, in this context of antiquisation, is an important testimony to the fact that the arguments “Macedonians would only have heard about antiquity from Gruevski” can be silenced.
In 1902 Jankov reached the city of Kostur in Aegean Macedonia (modern Greek: Kastoria) with a large number of Macedonian freedom fighters and addressed the local population with the following words:
“Macedonians! Do you remember the great conqueror of the world, the world fame of Macedonia, the Great Alexander the Macedonian; Remember the brave King Samoil, the great Macedonian, the beautiful Krali Marko, the general Slavic fame that Macedonian blood flowed in them; They watch over the sky and bless our endeavors. We as descendants should show ourselves to be worthy of them, to keep their glorious names and to surprise the world with our courage, our skill and self-sacrifice; to shake off the shameful yoke that has stifled us for five centuries.”
The ‘Antiquisation of Macedonia’ a modern propaganda
As we have now seen, a so-called “antiquisation of the Macedonian nation led by Gruevski” cannot have taken place. For the very simple reason that the Macedonians didn’t need a doctrine of antiquity.
While Macedonians are aware of where their roots are and who the forefathers of the Macedonian national history are, those outside of Macedonia seem not to have noticed. Or simply want to negate it.
A hundred years ago, the Macedonians included Alexander the Great, Saints Cyril and Method and Naum in their “national history”. Also, the Tsar Samoil and the fighters against the Ottoman occupation, which lasted five centuries until 1913.
One should not forget that at the time this calendar was published, the Macedonians had neither their own state, nor any uniform state doctrine, no schools or neither an education system nor anything else that would have been necessary for an antiquisation of the nation.
It is therefore astonishing that a Macedonian would list almost exactly the same order of people today in 2021 if he were asked which personalities marked Macedonian history.
Perhaps with one difference, he might name some more personalities. Because, in the last hundred years, a few “great sons” have emerged in Macedonia since then who fought for the freedom of Macedonia …