Academic journal article East European Quarterly

The War of Statistics: Traditional Recipes for the Preparation of the Macedonian Salad

Academic journal article East European Quarterly

The War of Statistics: Traditional Recipes for the Preparation of the Macedonian Salad

Article excerpt

Several reports by various International Organisations describing the situation of human rights in the Balkan have been publicised recently. Such reports on minorities and human rights hardly constitute a novelty nor are they the exclusive ideological by-product of post-cold-war diplomacy. They have been in circulation in the past, especially after the Final Act of Helsinki in 1975, mostly in the form of International Amnesty reports focusing on the situation of human rights within the domains of the former Eastern Block countries. The fall of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s led to a readjustment of the world order. The protection of minority rights all over the world became one of the top priorities in this "New Era" probably less for humanitarian reasons than for diplomatic exigencies. In any case, in this context N.G.O. (Minority Rights Group, Helsinki Watch etc.) or even the U.S. State Department reports grew of paramount importance. It has become clear by now that in a rapidly changing and unstable world reports on minorities strongly influence public opinion and are often used internationally as the most effective mechanisms to exercise diplomatic pressure.

In the case of the Balkans this interest is obviously related to the on-going diplomatic crisis which followed the break-up of Yugoslavia. The dispute between Athens and Skopje over the name "Macedonia" made Greece part of the Yugoslav crisis and attracted the attention of various organisations. Thus, a considerable part of their reports on the Balkans deals with the Slav-speaking population of Greece and its course through history. Reports like these would be indifferent to a historian, had they not directly referred to the demographic picture of Macedonia in the past as back as far the eve of the Treaty of Bucharest; a Treaty which ended the Balkan Wars (1912-1913) and interrupted a lengthy diplomatic game, played since 1878 by Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia, and the Great Powers, concerning the demise of the Ottoman Empire and the future of Macedonia. The researcher is amazed at the realisation that estimates of the number of Slav-speakers in Greece today are not based on modern, official statistics but constitute a mere revival -- a rather clumsy one though -- statistical "games" which were played long ago.

In this article an attempt will be made to review the current Balkan and European bibliography through a fresh reading of the already existing statistics and the use of newly found archival material. Despite what was generally acceptable until now, an effort will be made to:

(a) show that the basic problem of various statistical analyses referring to Macedonia from the end of the 19th century to this day is mainly a problem not of numbers but of terminology (i.e., the naming of various population groups);

(b) correct certain figures that have also acquired specific political content: mainly the number of Slav-speaking emigrants from Greek Macedonia to Bulgaria during 1912-1919 and secondly the size of the Slav-speaking population of Western Thrace in the early 1920s.

In general it will be argued that, as a rule, statistics on Macedonia's ethnic composition presented up until today are unreliable, since they have always been means for achieving various diplomatic aims.

According to the most moderate of the current reports Slav-speakers in Greece amount to 40,000 people, while the most extreme ones put them roughly at 200,000.(2) This huge divergence is sufficiently explained only if the origins of Macedonian demography are followed at the time of the Balkan Wars and beyond. The last quarter of the 19th and the first two decades of the 20th century were marked by an abundance of statistical analyses concerning the Balkans in general and Macedonia in particular.(3) Needless to say the interest for Macedonia was not purely scientific. The neighbouring Balkan states (Greece, Bulgaria and Serbia) had to secure and enlarge their ethnic grips by all means available. …

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