Anti-Bulgarian Propaganda in Macedonia Targets Stanishev, Reaches New 'Heights'

Diplomacy | January 20, 2012, Friday // 17:24|  views

A screenshot from a Macedonian news site with the "sensational" headline, "Ex Prime Minister of Bulgaria Openly Says He Is Macedonian".

Media in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia have proclaimed Bulgaria's former Prime Minister Sergey Stanishev to be a member of the supposed Macedonian ethnicity, misinterpreting Stanishev's words.

Several Macedonian news sites, including, have published a "sensational" news story claiming that Stanishev, currently the leader of the Bulgarian Socialist Party and President of the Party of European Socialists, admitted that he was a "Macedonian" during a talk show broadcast on TV on January 14, 2012.

The Macedonian media who are well known for their hate speech and anti-Bulgarian propaganda sprees originally rooted in the policies of the former communist Yugoslavia, and still surviving today, misinterpret – apparently on purpose – Stanishev's words.

In answering questions about his personal life, Stanishev says that both he and his life partner with whom he lives out of wedlock, Monika Yosifova, are "Macedonian", referring to the fact that their families originate from the geographic and historic region of Macedonia.

In Bulgarian history and culture, the Bulgarian nation is rooted in three historical and geographic regions that roughly correspond to the Ancient Roman provinces in the Balkans – Moesia, Thrace, and Macedonia, with the adjectives Moesian, Thracian, and Macedonian referring to the regional origin of the Bulgarians, and in no way describing an ethnonym but a denonym.

In the Bulgarian tradition, Bulgarians from Macedonia are usually perceived as having the toughest characters, an assumption probably based on the mountainous landscape and the turbulent history of the region of Macedonia (by the way, the same perception goes for Bulgarians from the mountain regions of Moesia and Thrace).

This reference is made by Stanishev himself in answering the TV show host's question if his life partner is "very jealous" of him.

"She is Macedonian, and I think that says it all. I want to add that I am Macedonian, too," Stanishev explains jokingly, apparently alluding that he has a jealous character as well, an allusion that he makes based on the above-described perceptions about the tough and strong characters of Bulgarians from Macedonia.

Stanishev's father, Dimitar Stanishev, a long-time member of the Central Committee of the Bulgarian Communist Party back in the communist period, was born in the village of Shtuka near the town of Strumitsa in 1924. The village is located in today's Macedonia; it was in Bulgaria until 1918 when Bulgaria was forced by the World War I victors to cede it to Serbia – a development that led Stanishev's family, just as hundreds of thousands of other ethnic Bulgarians from Macedonia to flee to Bulgaria's free territories.

Macedonia media's publications about Stanishev's alleged "coming out" as a "Macedonian" appears to be in line with the raging propaganda often backed by the government in Skopje, which is supposed to protect the notion that Slavic Macedonians are a nation that is distinct from Bulgarians.

Since the early Middle Ages, all the way to the first half of the 20th century, Macedonia and its Slavic population were considered part of the Bulgarian nation not just by Bulgaria but also by its neighbors and the international community. This is why from its National Liberation in 1878 till 1944 Bulgaria waged five wars attempting to unite all of the Bulgarian-populated lands in the Balkans, including Macedonia – after the San Stefano Treaty of March 1878 providing one state for almost all Bulgarian-populated regions was revised three months later by the European Great Powers in the Treaty of Berlin leaving the regions of Thrace and Macedonia out of Bulgaria.

After both World War I and World War II, however, Serbia/Yugoslavia kept control of 40% of the territory of the geographic and historical region of Macedonia, the so called Vardar Macedonia (which in 1991 became the Republic of Macedonia), Greece retained about 50% of the region – the so called Aegean Macedonia, while only 10% of the region – the so called Pirin Macedonia – remained in Bulgaria.

The foundations of the contemporary Macedonian nation were invented in 1944 by Yugoslavia's  communists at a special congress that also proclaimed the creation of a Macedonian language and a Macedonian alphabet designed to differentiate the dialects spoken in the region of Macedonia from the Bulgarian language and to underline the creation of a distinct Macedonian national identity. The rationale of communist Yugoslavia and of Serbia before that for the creation of a distinct Macedonian nation being to weaken Bulgaria.

In the recent years, however, with the democratic transitions in the region, the "ethnic Macedonian" identity has been eroded, with dozens of thousands of citizens of the Republic of Macedonia receiving Bulgarian citizenship based on their Bulgarian origin.

Since 2010, it is much easier for Macedonians to get Bulgarian citizenship because the Bulgarian authorities no longer ask them to provide a document of Bulgarian origin – which is usually some sort of a church or municipal certificate from the time of their grandparents; instead, for the purposes of granting citizenship, the Bulgarian state has switched to assuming that all Macedonians are of Bulgarian origin.

Unlike Greece, which gets enraged by Macedonia's moves toying with the cultural heritage from the Antiquity period and is tangled with Macedonia in the notorious name dispute, Bulgaria's governments traditionally react to propaganda fits by Skopje with disregard, while the general public in Bulgaria accepts them with ridicule. To the extent that Bulgaria has made any claims towards Macedonia, those have boiled down to the refusal to allow Skopje to hijack Bulgaria's historical heritage from the Middle Ages and the 19th century Revival Period.

Bulgaria was the first sovereign nation to recognize the independence of the Republic of Macedonia in 1992.

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Tags: Macedonian media, Macedonian language, Berlin Treaty, San Stefano Treaty, Skopje, Bozhidar Dimitrov, name dispute, greece, Aegean Macedonia, Pirin Macedonia, Vardar Macedonia, Southwest Bulgaria, Blagoevgrad District, Georgi Dimitrov, USSR, Joseph Stalin, Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, Tito, Josip Broz Tito, Bulgarian Communist Party, Communist Bulgaria, communist regime, Macedonians, macedonia, FYROM, propaganda, Omo Ilinden Pirin, Nikola Poposki, Foreign Minister, Nikolay Mladenov, Sergei Stanishev, Monika Yosifova


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