With the establishment of the modern Greek state in 1830, Greek national ideology developed on the basis of national continuity. It stressed classical Greek roots but also traced, from Byzantium, through Turkokratia, to Independence, the survival of the Greek nation, the Greek language, Greek customs and, of course, the Greek Orthodox religion.7 In Macedonia, however, emphasis was focused on two important, specific points. The first centred on the grandeur of ancient Macedonia and the saga of Alexander the Great. The magnetism of the great king, his achievements and the name of the Macedonians had been stimulants of Greek national ideology in Macedonia even before the Greek War of Independence;8 during the period of the Enlightenment, Greeks of Macedonia, both locally and in the diaspora, carried the Macedonian name as an additional testimony of their Greekness.9 As yet there was no challenge to the view that the ancient Macedonians were Greeks, and that the Greek inhabitants of Ottoman-held Macedonia were the only bona fide ethnic group entitled to bear the Macedonian name. These modern Makedones took pride in claiming descent from kings Philip and Alexander, just as eighteenth-century Athenian villagers traced their ’imagined’ lineage from Themistocles and Pericles.
The extraordinary revival of Hellenicnames, particularly those of ancient Macedonian origin, which were given to children, to cultural clubs and even to towns (Edessa in lieu of Vodena, Monastir in lieu of Bitola) indicates...
how strongly the heritage of the past conditioned nationalist manifestations. 10 Interest in archaeological research in Macedonia was not limited to trained archaeologists or historians, but caught the imagination of local teachers, priests and professional people. In 1896 the monumental work by M. Dimitsas, an Ohrid philologist, appeared under the appropriate title I Makedonia en Lithois Fthengomenois kai Mnimeiois Sozomenois [Macedonia in Speaking Stones and Surviving Monuments].11 The product of years of laborious library and field work from one end of Macedonia to the other, this book stimulated among Greeks interest and pride in their national roots, as well as a sense of legal ownership of the land with the hidden testimonies of its Greekness. It is no wonder that nationalist literature of the period made repeated references to ancient ruins and Greek inscriptions to prove the Hellenic origins of Macedonians 12.
As education spread further into non-Greek-speaking communities,the Alexander saga captivated their imagination too.Seeking to identify themselves with the glory of the ancientMacedonians, they associated themselves with classical Hellas. Itis not surprising that in the latter part of the nineteenth century,when, mainly in the central zone of Macedonia, Greek andBulgarian ideologies competed for the loyalties of Slav-speakingcommunities, Greek educators and propagandists published andcirculated the popular story of Alexander’s life in the local Slav dialect, but in Greek script. 13
Historical geography was similarly employed to determine ethnological boundaries as perceived by the competing national ideologies. Macedonia, a land of ill-defined and rather arbitrary geographical delimitation, was easy prey to manipulation by geographers, historians and politicians. Until the 1870s it was customary among Greeks to claim, on historical grounds, the entire geographical region of Macedonia as far north as the Shar mountains. Subsequently, the emergence of the Bulgarian national movement - and to a lesser extent Serbian activities -made necessary a more realistic approach. Indeed, Macedonian ethnography differed remarkably from region to region. Excluding the Muslims, three zones could be roughly identified. The northern zone, bordering on Serbia and the Bulgarian principality, extended over one third of the entire geographical area of Macedonia and was inhabited by Slav-speaking populations of either Bulgarian or Serbian orientation. The southern zone, bordering on Thessaly (annexed to the Greek kingdom after 1881), had a distinct Greek-speaking population. The central zone, however, was an ethnically mixed region of Greek, Slav and, to a lesser extent, Vlach-speaking Christians. Their national orientation varied from one locality to another. In terms of national identity, Slav speakers could invariably be split into Greek, Bulgarian or Serb factions, even within the same village community. 14 Such political realities curtailed earlier, excessive Greek claims to the northern zone. Greek historians came forward with more plausible theories concerning the historical boundaries of ancient Macedonia. Conveniently, these boundaries followed a west-east line from Lake Ohrid - Prilep - north of Monastir - Strumnitsa - Nevrokop - Nestos (Mesta) River. By coincidence or design, these northern limits corresponded almost perfectly with the northern boundary of the central zone. 15 The Greeks could thus argue that the political and cultural heritage of Macedonia, the historical geography of the region, and the Macedonian name all justified their aspirations to both the southern and the central zone.
The second pillar of Greek national ideology was the legacyof the Byzantine Empire. Quite apart from the traditional viewof the advocates of the ’Great Idea’ that the modern Greek statewas destined to act as a nucleus for a resurrected Byzantium, inMacedonia the medieval multi-ethnic, multilingual empire had aparticular attraction. Prior to the appearance of Bulgarian, Serband even Romanian national ideologies in Macedonia, theByzantine tradition of multi-ethnic societies and empires had beenpopular among Balkan Greeks. It had found its expression in RigasFerraios’s dream of a Balkan federation. It was no coincidence thata significant number of Rigas’s disciples were Macedonian Greeksof the central European diaspora. Understandably, the Greeks expected to play the leading role in their visionary federation or empire. Much as Alexander’s campaigns had resulted in the multinational Hellenistic states of the diadochoi, spreading Greekculture and language over most of the Balkans and the NearEast, and much as the Eastern Roman empire had evolvedinto a Greek Byzantine society, so their visionary state wasable to embrace other ethnic groups who were willing to shareGreek language and culture. These romantic visions of the lateeighteenth century and the early decades of the nineteenth gaveway to more practical considerations as national states emerged inthe Balkans. Nevertheless, in Macedonia Greek national ideologycontinued to be preoccupied with such considerations down to theearly years of the twentieth century. The fact that a significantnumber of Slav speakers in the central zone of Macedonia, mostof the Vlach-speaking communities, and the scattered ChristianAlbanian villages had opted for the Greek Orthodox Patriarchateand Greek education was an encouraging sign to the Greeks thatGreek national ideology stood a good chance of being adopted by the majority of the Christian population of central and southernMacedonia. 16
A third historical weapon in the arsenal of Greek ideologyemerged after the Bulgarian ecclesiastical schism. It related exclusively to Macedonia and, to a lesser extent, southern Thrace.For almost a quarter of a century since 1870, the contest betweenGreeks and Bulgarians in Macedonia over the Slav-speakinginhabitants had developed on the basis of ecclesiastical loyalties.Opting for the Bulgarian Exarchate, particularly in the absenceof physical coercion by armed bands, was sufficient evidence ofBulgarian national identity. Greek nationalists, fearing that theneutral, ecumenical and non-racist approach of the EcumenicalPatriarchate could not serve their needs for national polarization,sought to Hellenize the institution of the Church. To them it wasnot enough that the language of the liturgy was Greek and theclergy Greek speakers. The Orthodox faith - the only ’true’ faith- and the Church - with all its saints - must acquire a distinctand convincing Greek identity. The peasants of Macedonia, byremaining loyal to the Patriarchate, would accordingly continueto be listed as ’true’ believers, while simultaneously being usheredinto the ’cherished’ world of Greek national ideology. 17
Thus the legacies of Hellenic - and Hellenistic - Macedonia,of the medieval Byzantine Empire and the traditions of the Greek Orthodox Church, all contributed to rendering Greeknational ideology adaptable to the unique requirements ofnineteenth-century Macedonia. In order to spread this ideologyand at the same time cope with the Bulgarian challenge (and to a lesser extent with that of Serbian and Romanian ideologies), theGreeks employed all traditional means at their disposal: schools,cultural associations, the press, and distinguished personalities. Indoing so, however, they were exposed to contradictory signalsemanating from the two centres of Hellenism: the irredentist,revolutionary nationalism of the capital of the independent Greekstate, and the conservative, evolutionary ecumenicism of theConstantinople-based hierarchy of the subject Greeks. This strainwas clearly manifested in the uneasy, and at times polemical,relations between Greek consuls and bishops in the dioceses ofMacedonia. Consular dispatches to the Athens government andbishops’ reports to the Constantinople Patriarchate provide ampleevidence of the two different approaches. It was only at the turnof the century, when the ecclesiastico-educational contest betweenGreeks and Bulgarians developed into armed struggle betweenopposing bands, that the Church’s evolutionary approach wassubjected to the requirements of militant national ideology.18
* The above text is an excerpt from the article by Evangelos Kofos titled “National Heritage and National Identity in Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Macedonia”, published in the “European History Quarterly, 1989, Vol 19”» The title of the thread as the bolding parts are my own and not of the author. The references located in the paper.