Misirkov’s extensive biography provides a view as the author understood the overall political reality in Europe and particularly in the Balkan Peninsula during his time. It is also necessary for the reader to bear in mind the alongside creeping progress of the Pan-Slavic movement and the awakening of the Slavdom, i.e., regions of Slavic linguistic and cultural traditions who lived in Central, Eastern and Southeast Europe outside of the Russian boundaries.
The Roman Catholic Church started and sanctioned the Pan-Slavic movement as it brokered the marriage of Sophia Paleologue to Ivan III in 1472, supporting the theories of Vinko Pribojević, and Mauro Orbini, and authorized the voyages of Juraj Križanić to Russia silently endorsing his actions. Also, Russia’s foreign policy on the Balkans, which Peter the Great had established, continued uninterrupted and contributed to Misirkov’s life of movement or resettlement from one political jurisdiction to another. It is worth noting that while in Belgrade attending the teacher’s academy, Misirkov befriended some future members of the VMRO as Petar Pop-Parsov, Dame Gruev.
Misirkov was born in the town of Aghoi Apostoloi or Holy Apostles of the Pella Prefecture, Macedonia, Greece on November 18, 1874. The town of Aghoi Apostoloi is adjacent to the ancient Capital of Macedonia, Pella. Not only he attended the Greek elementary school of his village under the Ottoman rule, but also he could physically see the ruins of the ancient city. He knew the history of Macedonia much better than the modern Slav inhabitants of the FYROM and its diaspora do today. He could read the inscriptions chiseled on the stones and the language of the ancient population of Macedonia, which was Greek. It is why Misirkov never invoked the ancient Macedonians as his ancestors, but he always referred to himself and his compatriots as Macedonian Slavs.
The only person with the name Alexander whom Misirkov mentioned is Alexander Obrenović (1876-1903), who became king of Serbia at the age of 13 and assassinated at the age of 26.
As a charter member of the “Macedonian People’s Science and Technology Association, ‘Sveti Kliment’ ” (Saint Clement) along with the Chuparov brothers from Papradishte (Veles), Misirkov published the Македонский голос (Macedonian Voice) in Russian. Later the society changed its name to “Macedonian Slav Literary Society, Sveti Kliment.” It is notable that although they could name the Association after St. Cyril, they preferred to recognize Saint Kliment, Saint Cyril’s disciple one of their own who became the first Bulgarian Bishop. The leadership of the association knew that Saint Cyril was Greek. The fact is that Misirkov never mentioned anything that would indicate even remotely the appropriation of Greek history. The adjective “Macedonian” was regional according to Misirkov (1974, 159). He used the term Macedonian as the Greeks use it today, a regional connotation.
The language Misirkov used in his book was not the Central Slavic dialect of Bitola – Prilep as he had suggested that should become the literary language of the Macedonian state he had proposed, but instead, he used the vernacular Bulgarians spoke in his vicinity at that time. The dialect maintained archaisms of the literary standard of the southern dialect of the Old Church Slavonic language from which Bulgarian dialects evolved.
The current region of Macedonia is a product of political alchemy that started in the mid-1800s and continued in 1940s. Present geographic Macedonia is far more extensive than the great kingdom of Macedonia. Only a tiny part of their legendary kingdom fell within Serbia and Bulgaria because of the 1878 Conference of Berlin that caused the quarrel between those two countries. The Conference had deprived Serbia of enlarging west and Bulgaria from expanding south and west. While Serbia envisioned her presence south, Bulgaria moved her Capital from Turnovo to Sofia in the hope that one day she would gain the lands that the Conference had taken away. Their rivalry and their war of 1885 turned the lands of ancient Dardania and Paeonia into Macedonia by 1900 (Novaković 1906).
Misirkov was an intellectual but also an indecisive ideologue who wrote expressed his emotions over pragmatism, an individual who kept changing his ethnic allegiance while maintaining his loyalty to the region of Macedonia. By that, I mean that although Misirkov vacillated from being a Bulgarian of Macedonia or a Macedonian Slav who despised the Bulgarians of the Principality, while he remained a provincial Macedonian.
Lazar Koliševski, a prominent communist politician of Marxist Yugoslavia, explained, “The book appeared at the end of that year, but because of the intervention by greater-Bulgarian circles in Sofia the entire edition was destroyed at the printing works. Only very few copies remained. After that Misirkov had to leave Sofia and went to Russia for the third time” (Kolishevski 1980, 236).
To Misirkov, Macedonian people were all residents of Macedonia irrespective of their ethnic background. When he was referring to his ethnicity the term he used was Macedonian Slavs. His exact thoughts are capsulated in the sentence, “The emergence of the Macedonians as a separate Slav people is a perfectly normal historical process which is quite in keeping with the process by which the Bulgarian, Croatian and Serbian peoples emerged from the South Slav group.”
But because Misirkov was cognizant that the Macedonian people transcended ethnicities, and simultaneously his people had no ethnic name, he further wrote,
Is it possible now for the national unification of the Macedonians, when in Macedonia there are a lot, not just one ethnicity, and when there is no single Macedonian Slav nation?[i]
As for the nameless Slavs of the Balkans, Misirkov suggests the following.
“And so, one people [narod or ethnic group] can be without an ethnic name for a long time if there is no other ethnic group nearby and if there is no need for that [nameless] ethnic group to make a distinction using a specific ethnic name. That means that an ethnic group does not choose a name for itself, but the neighbouring ethnic groups make up a name for it, and the [nameless] ethnic group adopts it. It is the most common and very natural thing that one’s ethnic name first occurs in one of its neighbouring ethnic groups. So, the neighbouring ethnic groups are related like a godchild and a godfather”.
Misirkov identified himself and his Slav compatriots as being South Slavs, i.e., descendants of the original invading the region nine Slavic tribes.
Misirkov spoke like a man who knew about the Comintern and its 1924 Resolution on Macedonia and Thrace because he said to his closest and friends before he died, "I regret that I did not foresee federalism."
Also from other essays, Misirkov had published, e.g., The Macedonian Culture (1924), it is noteworthy that he was familiar with the work of Ziya Gökalp. While in On Macedonian Matters Misirkov refers to Bulgarians as Mongols, in The Macedonian Culture he refers to “Turanian Bulgarians,” an association of Bulgarians to the Turks brought up by Gökalp in Thessaloniki in 1911. The fact is that not one Turkic tribe is Turanian. The story of Turan is Persian and refers to the son of a Persian king, and has nothing to do with Turks (Templar, November 15, 2015).
I have examined the two existing versions of the book that claim to be copies of the original text: a) On Macedonian Matters, Sofia, Printing House "Liberal Club," 1903 and b) On Macedonian Matters, State Book Publishing House, 1946. I compared both to the English translation of the book contingent upon the copy from Skopje (On Macedonian Matters, 1974).[ii]
How original is it?
The most striking evidence of inconsistency regarding Misirkov’s book is the conflict between the name of the Capital of Imperial Russia, Petrograd and the time of publication, 1903. The toponym Petrograd that appears in Misirkov’s book is something I have kept to myself since I read the book many years ago. It is interesting that some new publications of the same book have attempted to “correct” the older edition by replacing Petrograd with Saint Petersburg; however, they cannot reverse facts.
The Capital of Imperial Russia was officially named Saint Petersburg on May 27, 1703. It kept the name until August 18, 1914, one day after Russia had declared war against Prussia and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The Czar changed the name of his Capital to Petrograd believing that the new name was more Slavicized than the previous German sounding name. About ten years later, as consequence of the Russian Revolution and Lenin’s death, the city was renamed Leningrad on January 26, 1924.
How was it possible for Misirkov to have published a book in 1903 anticipating the toponym of the Russian Capital that would appear 11 years later between August 18, 1914, and January 26, 1924?
The answer to the above question comes to us from the forward of the Skopje edition of the “original” Book. The forward of the 1946 edition published in Skopje starts with a very interesting heading, foreword to the 2nd Edition, which points to a modified version that appeared 43 years after the first one. The author of the introduction does not explain who and when had redacted the Second Edition of the book and neither he explains who took care of it before it ended up at the Skopje City Library titled “Brothers Miladinov” (Библиотека Браќа Миладиновци). However, consistent with the note by the Journal for Slavonic Philology of the Serbian Academy of Sciences, Institute of Serbian Language, the person who technically changed the orthography was Bozhidar (Dare) Dzhambaz (Божидар (Даре) Џамбаз).[iii] He also wrote the forward of the book reflecting his contemporary political views with tainted rationalizations.
Misirkov had probably redacted and published the version of the book available today during Stamboliski’s government (Agrarian National Union, 1919-1923) in Sofia, an ally of the Bulgarian communists. Aleksandar Stamboliski had officially declared in the Bulgarian Parliament that he was “neither a Bulgarian nor a Serb,” but a South Slav or “Yugoslav,” as a declaration of his beliefs for a Balkan Federation. The other possibility is that Misirkov had republished the book in either Kishinev, Bessarabia (Moldova) or Odessa, Ukraine between 1918 and 1923.
The original Cyrillic Alphabet comprised 44 letters which were subject to contemporary local dialectal needs. As phonetics keep changing linguists keep creating alphabetical innovations.
Although not a linguist, Misirkov had created his phonetic soft sign, a simple ‘ (apostrophe) that he added next to letters Г, К, Л, Н, instead of the traditional Ь. Also, he employed the use of i instead of І or Ї. The apostrophe was postpositional to particular Cyrillic letters (Г, К) converting them to Г’, K’ that arguably gave rise to new letters Ѓ, Ќ. Regarding the Л’, Н’ for some reason ignored the already existing in the Serbian alphabet thanks to Vuk Stefanović-Karadžić’s innovation (Л + Ь = ЛЬ => Љ and Н+ Ь = НЬ => Њ).
That could have something to do with the dubious change of the letter “i” of the original book to the letter j in the version of Skopje, i.e., from известiа to известjа or “notice, notification, report.”
Although both versions claim to be copies of the original, a trained eye can detect alphabetical discrepancies in the content of both texts. Thus immediately one wonders, how many unique copies exist out there? For instance, the spelling of the Bulgarian version seems genuine as compared to the Skopjan version since the redactor admitted his action. However, while the Bulgarian edition claims that the “Liberal Club” published the book in 1903, textually, it agrees with the Skopje version released in 1946 while both versions bear same toponymic inconsistencies.
Misirkov wrote the preface of his book just before he published the original version and Blagoja Korubin contributed to Misirkov’s biographical summary at the end of the English translation. One gathers that Misirkov composed the first three chapters from a collection of shorter essays that he had previously written and read in the “Macedonian Slav Literary Society, Sveti Kliment” in Saint Petersburg, the Capital of Imperial Russia. He recited the three chapters at the Sveti Kilment society between August and November 1903.
The final version of the essays, which constitute the first three chapters of the book, are:
1. What we have already done and what we ought to do in the Future?
2. Is there a need for Macedonian national scientific and literary societies?
3. National separatism – the basis on which we have been developing and on which we shall continue to develop?
Before he sent the above essays to Sofia for publication, Misirkov added the following articles, which he placed as the last two chapters in the book.
4. Can Macedonia turn itself into a separate ethnographic and political unit? Has it already done so? Is it doing so now?
5. A few words on the Macedonian literary language.
Misirkov arranged and managed to send the manuscript to Bulgaria, through his revolutionary socialist, i.e., communist friends in Sofia had the book published by the Printing House “Liberal Club” in 1903.
The Translation of the book into English.
In the 1800s, Macedonia was changing to the direction Bulgarians had resented. Rayko Ivanov Zhinzifov (Райко Иванов Жинзифов), a Bulgarian educator, and poet from Veles published his essay "Prospect" in the Russian journal "Brotherly Labor," Moscow, 1862, p. 38-58. He stated in a regretful tone in his essay, "In villages and cities, Bulgarian youths are using more “Greekisms” on a daily basis as "kalimera” (good morning) and "kalispera" (good evening).” Zhinzifov wrote his observations 31 years before the establishment of the VMRO, an organization that through extortion, murder, and coercive persuasion intended to establish its government over Macedonia by the 1934 Resolution of the Comintern.
Being fair to Alan McConnell, the Australian translator, even if he had translated the text very faithfully aiming at the spirit rather than the letter of the version the redacting committee of the book had a lot to do with the political direction of the text. It is evident that the translation into English is a product of an ideological redaction that confirmed the bias of the institution.
Let us see a couple of the issues that the translation addresses as the translator wished to express his political beliefs and financial interests. It makes a significant difference in understanding the name issue and the behavior exerted by the FYROM nationalists.
The English version translates the word tatkoina (modern ascription: tatkovina) as a country. The word country is more of an independent state under a fully functioning government with internationally recognized boundaries. In 1903, Macedonia was not a state, but part of the Ottoman Empire. Considering that at the time, Macedonia was under Turkish rule until 1912, the definition tatkoina that Misirkov implied was either birthplace or native land.
Another word is the noun narod. The English version translates the word narod as a nation. Not only narod does not mean a nation, but also the word nation has a dual sense: a) an ethnic group and b) a state. Nevertheless, narod implies folk, society, who are not necessarily related. Misirkov as an initiated communist, he followed the party line, which he deemed emblematic.
Conversely, natsiya or a nation in the communist sense is a historical community of people that come into existence with the formation of a common territory, common economic ties, a standard literary language, a general character, and specific cultural features that constitute its identifying traits. A nation as a community of descent is a tribe (Stalin 1934, 8; Stalin 1975, 11; Lenin 2002, 197). In the specific case of Macedonia, the expression Macedonian people or makedonski narod also covers the non-Slavic populations inhabiting Macedonia, i.e., Greeks, Albanians, Turks, Jews, Roma, etc.” (Hristo Andonov-Poljanski 1981, v. 2, 181).
Misirkov used националност or “nationality” to refer to “ethnicity,” which, by the way, appears only four times in his book. A related word is the adjective народен, народна, народно as in народна песна or folk song. The English translation of the book has the adjective as connoting national. Such a translation disregards the fact that most often songs and dances are regional as it is the food, especially in a mixed society of Misirkov’s Macedonia. I would have translated narodna as folk, people’s an adjective with plural meaning as in the Federative People’s Republic of Yugoslavia or Federativna narodna republika Jugoslavija. The Slovenian title of the same was Federativna ljudska republika Jugoslavija, which makes clearer as it translates the word narodna to ljudska an adjective of the noun in plural ljudi or људи or люди or “people.”
Toward the end of page 120 of the English version, Misirkov referred to the Macedonian “job.” The Macedonian “job” was a Bulgarian attempt to bulgarize all Christian Macedonians, their ethnicity notwithstanding. Anastas Yankov, a communist Bulgarian colonel of volunteers from the village of Vassileiada (Zagorichani), led a battalion strength band aiming at the revolt of the people of the region of Kastoria in 1902. He issued a proclamation calling ALL Macedonians regardless of their ethnic origin “historical heirs” of the great glory of Macedonia, naming “the great Alexander of Macedon,” “the brave king Samuel,” and “the marvelous Marko Kralyevich.” He further stated that all the above had Macedonian blood flown in their veins mixing all regional Macedonians as if they were of one tribe (Ristovski 1999, 207). Yankov and other Bulgarians had asserted that Alexander the Great and Aristotle were Bulgarians (Brailsford 1906, 103, 105, 121, 122; Allen Upward 1908, 163). “He [Yankov] died as the leader of a detachment in engagement with the Turkish army in 1906 at the village of Vlakhi”, Melnik, Bulgarian region of Pirin (Khirurgia, Vol XV, No 12, Sofia, 1962, pages 1118-1122 in JPRS: -18,462-, 1963, 1)[iv].
Misirkov also clarified that the slogan “Macedonia for the Macedonians” referred to all inhabitants of Macedonia, not just the Slavs of Macedonia. While mentioning the Committee, i.e., VMRO, Misirkov stated, “The revolution must be the work of all Macedonians or at least the majority of them so that it can be identified as a popular revolution. All ethnicities should be represented in the committee itself or at least most of the ethnicities. The intelligentsia of these ethnicities needs to assist each other while each of them should undertake to popularize the idea to their people (Misirkov 1946, 7- translation is mine).
In its present form, Misirkov’s book is not the original edition nor is it immaculate of political innuendos. Nevertheless, Misirkov does often stress the fact that Macedonians were not just the Slavs of Macedonia as Skopje propagates, but all inhabitants of the then Ottoman region as both resolutions of the Comintern of 1924 and 1934 promoted.
The text of the book has been altered, and its interpretation is guided to the point that it misguides the reader away from the intended disposition of the author; to what degree the redaction transpired is unknown. We can only speculate that the original text was more radical than the present version; perhaps the tone was too sharp for the government of the Principality of Bulgaria in 1903. Regardless of the apparent discrepancies, both versions (Skopje and Sofia) are similar indicating that they are products of the same second edition.
One could use On Macedonian Matters as a historically and politically useful book, at least as intended by the author’s point of view. Unfortunately, the Slavs of Skopje use the same book to rationalize their nationalistic bias by twisting words, disregarding common sense and willfully reversing distasteful to them passages. Such a selective and discriminating discernment leads to statements and actions of denigration of Greece and her symbols.
In 1990, Greece informed Slobodan Milošević that the republic of Skopje should stay independent if its people wished it. In 2001, the FYROM reached dismemberment to the point that a Parliamentary Slavic delegation visiting Athens asked to unite politically with Greece in a confederation; it was the only viable solution, still is, in case the FYROM disintegrated. Greece kept the FYROM together. On the business and finance side of national security, about 280 Greek businesses operate in the FYROM employing thousands of people, pay taxes, and stabilize the FYROM economy. Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou said “an international peacekeeping force was needed… We have an immediate interest. There are many Greek companies that have invested substantial funds in this country" (CNN.COM/World; Leaders gather for Macedonia[sic] talks, June 13, 2001).
Disparaging the reality that the FYROM exists and survives, because of Greece and Greeks, is unwise. It indicates weak intellect and absent acumen; in plain language, it suggests a brain of an 11-year-old going down to 5-year-old.
[i] From the FYROM text:
Зар и возможно ли јет сега националното објединуајн’е на македонците, кога во Македонија имат многу, а не једно националност, и кога немат једна оддел'на македонцка словенцка нација?
- „3а Македонцките работа“, София, Печатница „Либералний Клуб“, 1903.
- „3а Македонцките работа“, Државно книгоиздателство на Македонија, 1946.
- “On Macedonian Matters”, Macedonian Review Editions, Skopje, 1974.
Српска Академија Наука, Институт за Српски Језик Јужнословенски Филолог, Повремени Спис за Словенску Филологију, XVIII Књ. 1—4 (БЕОГРАД, 1949 — 1950).
JPRS: The United States Joint Publications Research Service is a government agency which translates foreign language books, newspapers, journals, unclassified foreign documents and research reports. Approximately 80% of the documents translated are serial publications. JPRS is the largest single producer of English language translations in the world. More than 80,000 reports have been issued since 1957, and currently JPRS produces over 300,000 pages of translations per year. In its early years JPRS concentrated heavily on scientific and technical material from communist countries. Gradually coverage has broadened to include more non-scientific materials (See: Open Source Enterprise (OSE).
About Marcus A. Templar
Professor Marcus A. Templar is a former U.S. Army Cryptologic Linguist (Language Analyst), Certified U.S. Army Instructor of Intelligence Courses, Certified Foreign Disclosures Officer, Certified Translator Interpreter of Serbo-Croatian, SIGINT / All-Source Intelligence Analyst. He is the Macedonian League's National Security Advisor.
To read all his papers, please click here.
About the Macedonian League
We are an international professional Hellenic advocacy group. Our primary purpose is to advance our interests to informed and responsive governments on issues concerning Greece's national security and territorial integrity.
The Macedonian League's main focus is on the “Macedonian name dispute”, as this dispute is a serious national security issue that threatens the territorial integrity of Greece.
The Macedonian League also focuses on exposing and combating anti-Hellenism and analyzing political developments in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
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