Tuesday, May 19, 2015


Metodija Andonov Chento greeted in Skopje after the National Liberation War of Macedonia in 1944.

In the interwar period all three states faced the challenges of integration. In the Greek part—called Government General of Macedonia to stress its Hellenic character—Slav-speakers represented only 10 percent of the population. Yet their linguistic and social assimilation was difficult and their ethnic identity had only partially been crystallized. The governments of both Yugoslavia and Bulgaria were claiming a national minority in Greece, and the vision of a greater Bulgaria encompassing Macedonia was supported by both nationalists and communists. The former dispatched armed bands to Greece and Serbia. The latter proposed an ‘‘independent and united Macedonia’’: coined by Bulgarian federalists and socialists in the late nineteenth century, it was officially supported by the Balkan Communist Federation in the 1920s. The Yugoslav government had also suggested that Macedonians were a distinctive people destined, however, to be assimilated by Serbia. In 1929 the Serbs, unable to integrate Old Serbia, renamed it ‘‘Prefecture of Vardar’’ to neutralize Bulgarian and communist-inspired ‘‘Macedonianism.’’ Financial and political instability; the shortcomings of land redistribution; clashes among locals, refugees, and ‘‘colonists’’; and the rise of dictatorial regimes everywhere started to shape the ethnic character of Macedonian regionalism, especially in Yugoslavia.

With the war approaching, the Germans were aware of Bulgaria’s and Yugoslavia’s desires to secure a sea-outlet through Greek Macedonia. Indeed, Bulgarians were allowed to occupy large parts of both Greek and Yugoslav Macedonia (April 1941). But they could not hold them. Even in the Yugoslav territory, where the Bulgarian army was initially well received, the clash with the communist resistance neutralized their grips. Sabotage and reprisals stressed the lines dividing Yugoslav Macedonians from Bulgarians but also from the Albanians who tried to detach Kosovo. However, it was not until early 1943 that Tito’s (Josip Broz, 1892–1980) resistance was able to exploit this cleavage by promising self-government to Macedonia, officially recognized at the Jajce Conference of the Anti-Fascist Council of National Liberation of Yugoslavia (November 1943). Soon, Yugoslav Macedonia acquired its own irredenta: the Greek Communist Party allowed the formation of Slav- Macedonian resistance units in Greece.

On 2 August 1944 the Anti-Fascist Assembly of the National Liberation of Macedonia met for the first time and proclaimed the formation of the People’s Federative Republic of Macedonia. Liberation found its communist leadership in diplomatic negotiations for control of Bulgarian Macedonia and ready to invade Greek Macedonia to support their comrades, as a Greek civil war was escalating. By the Bled Accords (1947), Bulgaria acknowledged the inhabitants of Pirin as ethnic Macedonians but the Tito–Joseph Stalin (1879–1953) split (1948) reversed the situation. Moreover, it alienated Greek Stalinists from Yugoslavia. Their defeat in the civil war (1949) led to a mass exodus of Slav speakers who did not feel Greek and had supported the communist revolt.

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