Addition to the Macedonian-Bulgarian dialogue (2)
Twelve years ago I published a text titled “Dilemma of Macedonian national unity”, copied and quoted both at home and abroad, especially in Bulgaria. For those of the Internet generation who have failed to read it, I am publishing it again in Inbox, as an addition to the ongoing Macedonian-Bulgarian dialogue. I am doing this after the suggestion of a friend and a critic, to republish some of the texts I wrote for Utrinski vesnik a decade-two ago.
Writes: Denko Maleski
The new nation was born
The English have always caused jealousy among lovers of pure nations and races around the world. Namely, the 22 nautical canal which separates Britain from the Continent, was a natural rampart that protected them from contact with other European nations, thus preserving the purity of the Anglo-Saxon race. This, of course, is just ordinary fiction. The pedantic British historians with an inexorable factography break down the usual prejudices about some purebred Anglo-Saxon nation. The first population is not from the Anglo-Saxon, but from the Iberian origin. Different Celtic tribes penetrate from the Continent to the Island, so that when the Romans invaded in AD 43, they encountered mixed populations. Not able to consolidate their power over those areas of the British Isles which due to the mountainous terrain were inaccessible, the Romans organized their economic and political life in the plains. It had been like this for 400 years, and after the ruin of Rome and the withdrawal of Roman legions, the image of the ethnic kaleidoscope is already different. Where the Roman government could not effectively be carried out and where there was no interference with the local Celtic population, the Scottish, Welsh and Irish identities developed, while the Romanized Celts became Britons. But when the Britons hired a German tribe called Saxons, to defend them from the belligerent mountainous Celts, the process of new ethnic intersections was opened. In addition to the Saxons, other Germanic tribes come, as was the one of the English. In the centuries that followed, the Vikings and the Danes penetrated the islands, and in 1066 these northern people won the famous Battle of Hastings, and their leader, William the Conqueror, established his power over the English and the Welsh. So much for the purity of the Anglo-Saxon race.
Without natural barriers that would separate the peoples, the political tides and ebbs in Eastern Europe and the Balkans, forcefully and in the unbroken historical continuity changed the borders and mixed the peoples. The borders of the countries in the region’s political atlas suddenly came to life, widening and shrinking, if your thumb holding the pages of the book allowed them to fall rapidly. I cannot explain the phenomenon that, contrary to the facts of life, we are all purebred in the Balkans – Greeks, Bulgarians, Serbs, Albanians, Macedonians…That is how we are experiencing our national Balkan histories – as if, from time immemorial, only our nation lived in one territory, as if there were no ethnic crossings and the image of the ethnic kaleidoscope remained stuck in time. For us Macedonians, since the time of Alexander the Great, if necessary. Such a rigid approach to the past is the source of many of our conflicts, with us and with members of other nations. By rejecting the ethnically mixed reality, we write the slogan on our national flags “One nation, one territory, one religion, one history”. The basis of this behavior is the fear of one’s own survival, which is the product of the brutal history of ethnic cleansing and fratricidal battles in the Balkans. We look for the salvation in history, no matter how paradoxically it sounds, over and over again. Where is the way out?
Brecht has a beautiful poem dedicated to the builders of the Great Wall of China. In it, he says that history is constantly talking about dynasties and kings, epochs and glorious dates important for the construction of the Wall, but never about the common man. About the worker who dragged stones, the cook who cooked food, their wives and children, their feelings, joys and sufferings…It seems to me that we all in the Balkans should make a twist in our minds and instead of thinking exclusively in categories of nations, territories, borders and historical dates, to turn to man. Perhaps the stories of human destinies that naturally tell more about nations than vice versa will make us more tolerant to our own and those of the other nation or ideology. A good start for us, the ethnic Macedonians, is to form a tolerant view of our own history. It is not easy because the wounds are fresh, so what happened to the Anglo-Saxons over a thousand years ago happened to us over the last hundred years. But such a tolerant view will allow us to see that dramatic tectonic movements on the political map caused by the rivalries of the regional powers and the great world powers in the Balkans have determined the behavior of our man, and that this behavior cannot be understood beyond the political context in which they threw the events. If all of this sounds too abstract, here are two stories as an illustration.
First story. In the thirties of the last century, in the battles that raged through the streets of Sofia between the factions of the Macedonian Bulgarians, Bulgarian historians also noted this episode. On the evening of February 23, 1933, Hristo Alivantov entered the shop on Pirotska Street while his two co-workers stood at the entrance. With a revolver in his hand, he resolutely moved to the counter with the intention of committing another political murder and liquidate the owner. The owner of the shop, Shentev, who, under the newspaper spread on the stall, always held a revolver, shot first and killed Hristo. On the following day, the newspapers routinely registered another victim of “Macedonian murders”, this time as a battle between the supporters of Vanco Mihailov and General Protugerov. No one asked who in fact Hristo Alivantov was? Born in Gumendza in a country called the Kingdom of Greece, Hristo was an intelligent and rebellious young man. Mobilized in the Greek army, he served a military service on the borders to Turkey. There, in the place Chirikay, he met the beautiful 16-year-old Greek woman, with thick Thracian brows, Elena Angelu, and took her to his birthplace as his wife. When he hit a Greek officer in rage, his friends transferred him across the border and sheltered him in Sofia. There, Elena gave birth to two children, Maria and Ivan, and soon afterwards she died of tuberculosis. Hristo gave his children to the Sofia-based orphanage “Bitola” financially supported by the imperial court. He worked as a barber, but his passion was Macedonia, for which he killed until he himself got killed.
Second story. In Struga, in the country called the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, Vlado Maleski was born in 1919. Son of the migrant worker Krste, who made money as a baker in Shkodra, where Vlado went to an Albanian primary school. As a scholar of the Government of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, he went to a Serbian High School in Bitola, and then studied law in Belgrade. Already in Bitola he became associated with the communist movement, and after the capitulation of Yugoslavia in 1941 he returned to his birth place and organized an uprising. With the guitar in his hands, always in a mood for a song.
Vlado, whose passion was also Macedonia, was closed by the Serbian authorities for singing the song about Mile Pop Jordanov. At the reception of the new 1942 in Struga, his friends listened to his composition “Today over Macedonia is born…” for the first time.
After the second arrest, this time by the Bulgarian authorities, he temporarily ended in Sofia, where in one dining hall he met the sixteen-year-old daughter of Hristo from Gumenja, Maria Alivantova, with the same Thracian eyebrows as her mother. “I am ours” were the mysterious words of acquaintance. On leaving for the Partisans, Vlado promised Maria that if he stayed alive, she would come again to Sofia and marry her. So it happened. Immediately after the war, she went to Sofia and brought the bride across the border, in the People’s Republic of Macedonia, a part of the state called the People’s Republic of Yugoslavia, a federation of “equal peoples and nationalities”.
There are two stories, two truths about Macedonia. One evening in 1946, when passing the Stone Bridge in Skopje, Vlado told Maria strictly: “If your father were alive, we would be enemies.” Today, neither my grandfather Hristo Alivantov, nor my father Vlado Maleski are alive, but the new nation was born. Is it possible that there are no enemies in the Balkans, but we are not aware of that?!
(Published in “Utrinski Vesnik” in 2003)
*The text is written exclusively for the purposes of Inbox 7. For each republishing, a consent by the editors must be obtained. Inbox 7 does not always agree with the opinions and views of the authors in the debate section.
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