Yugoslavia Table of Contents
In its earliest history, Macedonia was ruled by the Bulgars and the Byzantines, who began a long tradition of rivalry over that territory. Slavs invaded and settled Byzantine Macedonia late in the sixth century, and in A.D. 679 the Bulgars, a Turkic steppe people, crossed into the Balkans and directly encountered the Byzantine Empire. The Bulgars commingled with the more numerous Slavs and eventually abandoned their Turkic mother tongue in favor of the Slavic language. The Byzantines and Bulgars ruled Macedonia alternately from the ninth to the fourteenth century, when Stefan Dusan of Serbia conquered it and made Skopje his capital. A local noble, Vukasin, called himself king of Macedonia after the death of Dusan, but the Turks annihilated Vukasin's forces in 1371 and assumed control of Macedonia.
The beginning of Turkish rule meant centuries of subjugation and cultural deprivation in Macedonia. The Turks destroyed the Macedonian aristocracy, enserfed the Christian peasants, and eventually amassed large estates and subjected the Slavic clergy to the Greek patriarch of Constantinople. The living conditions of the Macedonian Christians deteriorated in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries as Turkish power declined. Greek influence increased, the Slavic liturgy was banned, and schools and monasteries taught Greek language and culture. In 1777 the Ottoman Empire eliminated the autocephalous Bulgarian Orthodox Church and the archbishopric of Ohrid. Because of such actions, the Slavic Macedonians began to despise Greek ecclesiastical domination as much as Turkish political oppression.
In the nineteenth century, the Bulgars achieved renewed national self-awareness, which influenced events in Macedonia. The sultan granted the Bulgars ecclesiastical autonomy in 1870, creating an independent Bulgarian Orthodox Church. Nationalist Bulgarian clergymen and teachers soon founded schools in Macedonia. Bulgarian activities in Macedonia alarmed the Serbian and Greek governments and churches, and a bitter rivalry arose over Macedonia among church factions and advocates of a Greater Bulgaria, Greater Serbia, and Greater Greece. The 1878 RussoTurkish War drove the Turks from Bulgarian-populated lands, and the Treaty of San Stefano (1878) created a large autonomous Bulgaria that included Macedonia. The subsequent Treaty of Berlin (1878), however, restored Macedonia to Turkey, and left the embittered Bulgars with a much-diminished state.
The Bulgarian-Greek-Serbian rivalry for Macedonia escalated in the 1890s, and nationalistic secret societies proliferated. Macedonian refugees in Bulgaria founded the Supreme Committee for Liberation of Macedonia, which favored Bulgarian annexation and recruited its own military force to confront Turkish units and rival nationalist groups in Macedonia. In 1896 Macedonians founded the International Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO), whose two main factions divided the region into military districts, collected taxes, drafted recruits, and used tactics of propaganda and terrorism.
A 1902 uprising in Macedonia provoked Turkish reprisals, and in 1903 IMRO launched a widespread rebellion that the Turks could not suppress for several months. After that event, the sultan agreed to a Russian and Austrian reform scheme that divided Macedonia into five zones and assigned British, French, Italian, Austrian, and Russian troops to police them. Pro-Bulgarian and pro-Greek groups continued to clash, while the Serbs intensified their efforts in northern Macedonia. In 1908 the Young Turks, a faction of Turkish officers who promised liberation and equality, deposed the sultan. The Europeans withdrew their troops when Serbs and Bulgars established friendly relations with the zealous Turks. But the nationalist Young Turks began imposing centralized rule and cultural restrictions, exacerbating Christian-Muslim friction. Serbia and Bulgaria ended their differences in 1912 by a treaty that defined their respective claims in Macedonia. A month later, Bulgaria and Greece signed a similar agreement.
Data as of December 1990
Yugoslavia Table of Contents