Macedonian Bulgarians Threaten Skopje with Switching to Bulgarian Orthodox Church

Diplomacy | January 18, 2011, Tuesday // 14:14|  views

Lazar Mladenov, President of the Bulgarian Cultural Club in Skopje. Photo by Monitor daily

The Bulgarian Cultural Club in Skopje (BCCS) has risen in protest against hate speech by Archbishop Stefan, the head of the Macedonian Orthodox Church, with respect to Macedonian Bulgarians.

In an open letter to the media, the BCCS, an organization of the Slavic Macedonians who declare their Bulgarian ethnicity and consciousness, has stated that Skopje's Archbishop Stefan has stated in a recent TV interview that Spaska Mitrova, a Macedonian with a Bulgarian passport belongs to the "dregs of society, traitors and freaks", which the Club accepts as an insult to all Macedonian Bulgarians.

The Bulgarian Cultural Club in Skopje has asked Archbishop Stefan for an apology threatening that, should he fail to issue one, the organization will ask the Bulgarian Orthodox Church to restore its historic diocese in Macedonia.

"The "Bulgarian Cultural Club" - Skopje (BCCS) is deeply shocked and appalled by the statement of the head of the Macedonian Orthodox Church (MOC), Archbishop Stefan, who, in a Christmas interview for the media, stated that the long suffering Bulgarian mother Spaska Mitrova belongs to the "dregs of society, traitors and freaks". As is well known, during the last couple of years Spaska Mitrova became a symbol of courage and human dignity in the fight against ethnic discrimination suffered by the Bulgarians in the Republic of Macedonia," the BCCS says in a statement.

"Since the times of the Inquisition, such vile, unchristian words have never been uttered by a priest, and still less by a head of church and spiritual shepherd. The outrageous inhumane speech of Archbishop Stefan is another vivid proof that the Republic of Macedonia continues to be dominated by a post-Yugoslav totalitarian socio-political system where dissenting opinions are punished by imprisonment, dismissal from work, public anathema, physical and psychological abuse.

"The scandalous behavior of Archbishop Stefan comes after he unceremoniously appropriated the blessed name and historical heritage of the Bulgarian Patriarchate and Archbishopric of Ohrid to the canonically unrecognized Macedonian Orthodox Church and personally usurped the sacred title of the Archbishops of Ohrid, conveniently omitting the last part of the true title "and of Bulgaria". We strongly appeal to the European and international community to condemn these medieval discriminatory practices and to support by all possible means the desired democratic changes in our beloved homeland – the Republic of Macedonia," states Lazar Mladenov, President of the BCCS.

Mladenov compares the insults uttered by Archbishop Stefan to the hate speech of Ku Klux Klan. He points out that after the breakup of Tito's Yugoslavia thousands of Orthodox Christians from the Republic of Macedonia have returned to their Bulgarian self-consciousness, and have declared their Bulgarian roots and attachment to Bulgarian cultural and historical heritage.

Reports of cases of harassment in Macedonia against Macedonians who declare themselves to be ethnic Bulgarian are not infrequent. Until the first half of the 20th century the majority of the population of the geographic region of Macedonia were considered to be ethnic Bulgarians. In 1944, communist Yugoslavia formally set up a Macedonian nation and made the so called region of "Vardar Macedonia" (as opposed to Aegean Macedonia which is a region in Greece and Pirin Macedonia which is a region in Bulgaria) one of the six Yugoslav republics.

After Macedonia (Macedonia) became independent in 1991, the Bulgarian authorities and public have protested vigorously against attempts by Macedonian officials and historians to "rewrite history" by proclaiming medieval and modern Bulgarian figures and events to be Macedonian, and against harassment of Slavic Macedonians who declare themselves to be Bulgarian.

Officially, the Bulgarian government has been seeking to improve its relations with the state of Macedonia but Slavic Macedonians (as opposed to the ethnic Albanian population in Macedonia) are widely seen as being part of the Bulgarian nation, at least historically.

These views have been translated in the official naturalization policy of the Bulgarian state, which is granting Bulgarian citizenship to increasing numbers of Macedonians based on proof of their Bulgarian origin, even such as Ottoman documents from the 19th century.

In 1991, Bulgaria became the first sovereign nation to recognize the independence of the Republic of Macedonia from the former Yugoslavia. In the late 1990s, Bulgaria and Macedonia worked out a compromise under which Bulgaria recognized Macedonia's right to call its constitutional language "Macedonian" even though it still considers it a dialect of Bulgarian.

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Tags: macedonia, FYROM, Skopje, Bulgarian Orthodox Church, Macedonian Orthodox Church, Lazar Mladenov, Bulgarian Cultural Club in Skopje, BCCS


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