Academic journal article Serbian Studies

Macedonia between Greek, Bulgarian, Albanian, and Serbian National Aspirations, 1870-1912

Academic journal article Serbian Studies

Macedonia between Greek, Bulgarian, Albanian, and Serbian National Aspirations, 1870-1912

Article excerpt

During the second half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century Macedonia was one of the most disputed territories and an "apple of discord" on the Balkan Peninsula. All of Macedonia's neighbors and their national states set their territorial aspirations upon Macedonia as a way to solve their own national questions in this part of the Balkans. They based their claims on both ethno-linguistic and historic rights of their own nations. Historic-geographic Macedonia was the most important and, in fact, the crucial moot point in the Balkans, where Serbian, Albanian, Bulgarian, and Greek nationalism was interweaving and struggling against each other. (1) Particularly during the period from the end of the 19th century to the beginning of the First World War within the framework of the territorial aspirations of the states and nations that emerged in the Balkans following the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire; the so-called "Macedonian Question" was in fact the most urgent, hot, and significant point of their disagreements and frictions. In other words, the territory of Macedonia was the "crossroad" where territorial claims and nationalism of east Balkan nations became interwoven and directed against each other. National aspirations and disagreements with regard to Macedonia were the crucial reasons for the final political split among the east Balkan states and nations and their participation on opposite sides during the Great War of 1914-18.

The main research topics addressed in this article are: (i) National ideas of the Serbs, Albanians, Bulgarians, and Greeks with regard to the territory of Macedonia and its inhabitants, (ii) Bulgarian Exarchate (1870), "San Stefano Bulgaria" (1878), and the "Macedonian Question," and (iii) The "Macedonian Question" from the Berlin Congress (1878) to the outbreak of the Balkan Wars (1912).

Problems with regard to the question of Macedonia in terms of Serbian, Albanian, Bulgarian, and Greek national aspirations and diplomatic activities are covered in this article from the time of the establishment of the Bulgarian Exarchate in 1870 (the name of the national Bulgarian autocephalous church) created by the highest authorities of the Ottoman Empire to the beginning of the Balkan Wars (1912).

Territory and People

The term Macedonia has had different understandings throughout history. During the time of Alexander the Great (Alexander III of Macedon, 356-323, reign 336-323 BC), the Kingdom of Macedonia was considered to be an area encompassing present-day territories of Vardar, Aegean and Pirin Macedonia, western Thrace, southern Serbia's province of Kosovo and Metohija, and parts of Albania and Epirus. According to Nicolaos K. Martis, in narrow geographical terms, ancient Macedonia occupied the lands of southern parts of present-day Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (without Skopje/Scupi) and northern Greece up to Mt. Olympus and just before the Maritza River. (2) The Romans used the term Macedonia for their province in the central Balkans which incorporated present-day Albania, and in early Byzantine times Macedonia was a separate theme, one of the Byzantine administrative provinces, but it was located in today's Thrace. Finally, when the Ottomans conquered the biggest portion of the Balkan Peninsula in the 14th century Thrace was generally known as Macedonia. However, in a broader geographical sense the term Macedonia refers mainly to the territory that extends from Mt. Shara and Skopje's Crna Gora on the northwest, through Osogovo and Mt. Rila on the north, to Mt. Rhodope on the northeast, to the Aegean Sea and the River Aliakmon (Bistritsa) on the south, and finally to beyond the Lakes of Prespa and Ochrida on the southwest. In this case the area of Macedonia covers a large portion of the east-central parts of the Balkan Peninsula including the valley of the Vardar (Axios) River, the Aegean littoral from the mouth of the Aliakmon River to the mouth of the Mesta River to the Aegean Sea, whole parts of the Ochrida and Prespa Lakes, and the city of Salonica/Thessaloniki as an administrative, economic, and cultural center of the area. …

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