The Ottoman conquest of Macedonia was completed with the fall of Thessaloniki (1430), causing major changes in the population of the Balkan and naturally in Macedonia. On the affirmative, the conquest brought under single rule and administration the entire region of Macedonia. Moreover, the withdrawal of the last vestiges of Western presence, the Venetians from Thessaloniki, augmented the Greek-Orthodox identity among all those ethnicities that remained within the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.[1] Following the Ottoman conquest, the Christian population residing in the plains were induced to seek refuge in the mountains, while the influential and powerful socio-economic and intellectual classes fled to Europe. Concurrently, Turkmen population, the Uruks, moved in settling in Central Macedonia. A large number of Christians, unable to endure the grievances and the oppression of the Ottomans, embraced Islam. Known as “Valaades”, these Greek speaking Muslim populations were still to be found in some parts of the Kozani prefecture until the liberation of Macedonia in 1912. Twelve years later, with the exchange of population of 1923-1924, they shared the fate of the other Turkish Muslims and settled in Turkey.

Nevertheless, under the Ottoman rule for four hundred years, until new Western ideas of social and political organization, new principles of self-determination of human communities in particular, penetrated the country, the secular authority of the Ottomans and the spiritual authority of the Ecumenical Patriarchate moulded these communities on the basis of religion which tended to blunt and limit the role of other cultural elements defining common identity, such as language, which  in the West favoured the early growth of ethnicity. The Greek, Slav, Vlach and Albanian-speaking Orthodox Christians of Macedonia, all constituted part of the Orthodox ecumenism; they identified themselves with the Ecumenical patriarchate and thus as belonging to the same community, different from the Muslim and Jewish communities.

During and after 17th century the situation stabilised and the Greek populations returned to the plains. Since the vast Ottoman Empire had no borders and did not recognize ethnicities, but only religious denominations, there were widespread population movements. While the Turks immigrated and settled in various parts of Macedonia, the Greeks of Epirus, Thessaly and Macedonia advanced northwards into Serbia, Austro-Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania establishing colonies in the cities of those countries, founding towns and villages and revitalizing very ancient Greek colonies in those regions. The South Slavs and the Bulgars, immigrated south in search of employment, revitalizing “the remnants of the old colonies of the Middle Ages in some parts of Macedonia or forming new settlements of their own”.[2] In that way, the Slav settlement gained in strength while the Slavic-Bulgarian language (Macedoslavonic) predominated in the northern zone -what is today FUROM and western Bulgaria and in the north central zone of Macedonia.

After the 18th century the Greek element flourished in the educational, religious, socio-economic and educational spheres, leading to complete influence of the area by Greek leaders, educators, merchants and intellectuals. This resulted for the Christian populations of Macedonia to acquire a consciousness of their Greek and Greek Orthodox identity. Since then, a large number of Slav-speaking Christians sent their children to Greek language schools, attended the Greek orthodox churches and fought against the Ottoman Empire during the Greek War of Independence (1821-1828). These Slav-speaking Greek populations throughout the 19th century participated in all Greek uprisings in Macedonia, fighting for the liberation of Macedonia and its unification with the free Greek State.

[1] The Venetian withdrawal further increased the existing distance between Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholics.

[2] Apostolos Vakalopoulos (), The History of Macedonia, Thessaloniki.



In 1453 Konstantinople falls in hands of tho Ottoman Turks and the more than one thousand years long life of the Byzantine Empire reaches its end. The fall of Salonika the whole of Macedonia and of the other Balkan countries had already preceded that (1430). Greece is going to be liberated and to be an independent state again in 1828, after the Great Revolution of 1821 by its own poor powers of rebels, without money and weapons and with the help of some Philhellenes who were touched by the struggle of the small nation, which had enlightened the whole of Europe, to regain its freedom. Unfortunately some of the previous Greek lands Thessaly, Macedonia, Epirus, Thrace and Asia Minor remained still under the Turkish domination. Autonomy had been granted to Bulgaria in the 1870s after the intervention of Russia. Then, an autocephalous Church, the so called “Exarchia” had been given to Bulgaria as well by Soltan, after the mediation again of the Russian ambassador in Konstantinople, count Ignatiev. This independent Church was declared schismatic by the Patriarchate of Constantinople and a struggle erupted between Greeks and Bulgarians on who belonged to the one Church or the other, consequently who is Greek and who is Bulgarian in Macedonia (we will refer again to this matter). The so called ‘Macedonians’, in the ethnic sense (Macedonian Slavs that is), were not discovered as yet. Macedonia was liberated in the first Balkan War (1912) by the Greek army about 83% to 90% as has been said already, and about 10 to 17% by the Serbian and the Bulgarian armies.

What are, however, the ethnological and the cultural conditions in the area of the Balkan countries and particularly in Macedonia during the nearly 500 years of the Ottoman domination?

From the book of Anthony-Emil Tachiaos “The Bulgarian National Awakening and its Spread in Macedonia” (Thessaloniki,1990) we are informed the following, concerning the intellectual activity of that time:

“The measure of the Southern Slavs’ intellectual activities provided by the numbers of the books they published during the period of Turkish domination.

– The catalogue of books published in the Southern Slavonic languages between 1519 and 1867 gives a total of 3,044 books.

– The first Bulgarian printed book, entitled Abagar, was published in Rome in 1651 (by a Bulgarian Roman Catholic Bishop for the purpose of proselytism). 

– The next printed Bulgarian book was not published until 1806 (a Bulgarian translation of Nicephorus Theotokis’s ‘Kyriakodromion’).

-Between1806 and 1878 a total of 1,871 Bulgarian books were published. 

Let us see now the production of the Greek books in that period: 

According to the data provided by the Greek printed catalogued so far, between 1476 and 1863 a total of 11,673 Greek books were published. A brake-down of the figures over this period works out as follows:

-From 1476 up to 1600, 868 Greek books were published (the first Bulgarian book was not published as yet).

-In the seventeenth century (1600-1700), 988 Greek books were published (the second Bulgarian book was not published as yet).

-Between 1701 and 1788, 1,259 Greek books were published.

-Within the space of only eight years (1791-9), 504 books were published.

-Between 1800 and 1863, 8,054 Greek books were published.

If we now compare these figures of Bulgarian and Greek books it is easy to see why the intellectual superiority of the Greeks in the Balkans was quite overwhelming and continued thus throughout the period of Turkish domination”. 

It is, however, very important to see some examples of the national consciousness of the people living in Macedonia during the aforementioned period. It is generally accepted that during the long dark Turkish occupation of the Balkan countries the enslaved people distinguish themselves from the conquerors by religion: Christian versus Muslim.  While through a kind of self government of the Greek Communities together with the role of the Church, the early establishment of Greek schools and the cultural tradition (legends, myths, demotic songs) kept  the national consciousness of the Greeks alive, the national awakening of the Bulgarians started  in the middle of the 18th century. A Bulgarian monk, Paisji, who lived in the monastery of Hilandari, in Mount Athos of the Greek Macedonia,  around the year 1762, wrote a book with the title: ‘Istorija Slavenobolgarskaja’ (Slav-Bulgarian History),which proved to be a proclamation of the Bulgarians’ national awakening. This book constitutes an exhortation to Bulgarians “to preserve their mother tongue at all costs and to avoid the danger of hellenisation….The tone of both the foreword and, indeed, the whole History is plainly anti-Greek…”(A. E. Tachiaos, 1990).

Furthermore, A. E. Tachiaos informs us that:

 “ As Paisji so fervently hoped, his History was read by great many people, and he himself sent it to Bulgaria, where it was repeatedly copied and widely distributed. At present, a total of sixty copies and variants of the work are known to exist: of these, some forty were produced before 1860…Only one of these forty copies was made in Macedonia, in 1857; it was the work of Dimitrius Miladinov (let us remember this name), who made this copy in Greek letters. This proves that until the middle of the nineteenth century, some 100 years after it was first composed and distributed, Paisji’s History made no impression whatsoever in Macedonia, and that it circulated for the most part precisely where one would expected it to have found a readership: in Bulgaria”. 

At the forefront of this Hellenophobic reactionary atmosphere, in the beginning of the 19th century was another Bulgarian monk of the same monastery of Athos Mountain, Neofit Bozveli, who had spend twenty-five years in the town of Svintov on the Danube in the sphere of Russian and Serbian intellectual influence. He was the first to raise the question of an independent Bulgarian Church and produced a book  the “Mati  Bolgaria” (Mother Bulgaria), a dialogue between Bulgaria and one of her children; a work characterised by rejection of Greek education and hatred of all things Greek.

There was, however, an alternative attitude in Bulgaria, which was in favour of compromise and studying in the intellectual flourishing Greek world promoted by men like Neofit Rilski, Christaki Pavlovic and other Bulgarian intellectuals whose non-chauvinist attitude risked being labelled a treason to the Bulgarian nation and them to be characterised as “Graecomaniacs”.

But what is  particularly significant in this context is the fact that none of these manifestation of anti-Greek feeling made any impression whatsoever in Macedonia up until 1845. At this point a fervent preacher of Bulgarian nationalism was suddenly heard in Macedonia. It was a Greek teacher from the village of Struga, near Achris (today in FYROM), the person who made the only copy of Paisji’s History in Macedonia, Demetrius Miladinov. He received his elementary education in a Monastry and in a Greek school of Achris. Then he attended the Greek high school in Ioannina and became a teacher of Greek.  His pupil and biographer, Kuzman Shapkarev, informs us that up until 1847 Miladinov (former Miladinis or Miladin) was “an astonishing Hellenist, fanatically pro-Greek, and potentially very damaging to the Bulgarian nationalist cause” (A.E. Tachiaos, 1990). When teaching in Achris he gathered together a group of students with whom he translated Plutarch into Modern Greek. This disposition towards Greek studies was shared by Demetrius’s younger brother Constantine, who having studied philology at the University of Athens, likewise became a Greek teacher in 1852. According to Tachiaos’s aforementioned research: “Miladinov’s anti-Greek activities dated from the time of his encounter with  one of the first Russian Slavisists, Professor Victor Grigorovic of the University of Kazan, whose arrival in Macedonia in 1845 marked the beginning of the Bulgarian national movement there, championed  first and foremost by Demetrius Miladinov and his brother Constantine”.

So, Demetrius, and his brother as well, gave up teaching Greek and switched completely to Bulgarian.  Two pieces of Bulgarian doggerel, one by Demetrius entitled Greek and Bulgar, the other, entitled Greek Bishop to Bulgar by Constantine, express their rejection of Greek education (both works attempt to ridicule Greek education and to inculcate the conviction that Bulgarian culture can progress without it).

Moreover, the two brothers with the aforementioned K. Shapkarev and some others were the establishers of the first Bulgarian schools in the area of Struga and Achris in 1858.

It is worthwhile, however, to cite here a piece of information from the linguist N. Andriotis, concerning the Miladinov brothers:

 “The Slavs of Northern Macedonia themselves attached the name “Bulgarian” to the folklore, (attempts were started in the middle of 19th century to collect the popular songs of that region): “Bulgarski Narodni Pesni” (Bulgarian Popular Songs) was the title which Miladinov brothers gave to their collection that was published in Zagreb in 1861” (Andriotis, N. ‘The Federative Republic of Scopje and Its Language’, Athens, 1966).

The Professor of University of Thessaloniki, S. Sfetas pinpoints that “ The effort of the Scopjan historians to render essentially (επί της ουσίας) (slav)Macedonian, non Bulgarian, consciousness in the Slavic intelligence of the Macedonian area in the 19th century constitutes a deliberate distortion of the historical sources” (Book Review of the  “History of  the Macedonian People” ( Scopje, 2008), Makedonika, EMS, 12/4/2010).

It does not surprise us that the Scopians today anoint retrospectively the two Miladinov brothers as the first “Macedonian” national apostles, and organise each year, since 1962 in their birthplace, Struga, international poetry gatherings the so called “Struga Poetry Evenings”! It is about a facet of a huge propagandist machine which acts in the domain of civilization aiming at sensitive, good intentioned people of art in order to indirectly support the Scopjan myth, concerning their forged name and identity.

As we mentioned before, Greece acquired its freedom with the revolution of 1821. At that time Macedonia as well raised the flag of revolution against the Turks under the leadership of Emmanuel Papas in Serres and Tsamis Karatassos in Naoussa but without success, because the Turks kept a very large army in Macedonia. Another uprise happened in the Macedonian small town of Litochoro, in the foot of Olympus mountain, after the Saint Stephanus’s Treaty(1878) between Turkey and Russia, which created the Great Bulgaria granting to her the whole of Macedonia except Chalcidiki and Salonika (Russians were realising that way their dream to get an exit to the Mediterranean Sea). Unfortunately, this uprising was suppressed as well by the numerous Turkish army. The Treaty of Berlin (1878), however, cancelled the resolution of Saint Stephanus’s Treaty and Macedonia was return under the sovereignty of Turkey. Meanwhile, an undeclared war had started, under the Turkish nose, between Greeks and Bulgarians claiming Macedonia. The Bulgarian ‘Exarchists’ organised armed gangs, the notorious ‘Committadjis’, who terrorised the villagers of Macedonia in order to join the Bulgarian Church (‘Exarchy’) and thus to present Macedonia to the Europeans as Bulgarian territory (they never forgot  Saint Stephanus’s  Great Bulgaria).

An act of the same project on behalf of the Bulgarian leadership was the so called ‘Ilinden Uprising’(1903). Ficticious statistics, indicating the  superiority of the Bulgarian population in Macedonia, started being published in European newspapers, already, from eighteen eighties (Vakalopoulos K, ‘The Macedonian Question’, Thessaloniki, 1989), and the public opinion in many European countries, especially in England, was fond of Bulgarians. Thus, the English journalist H. N. Brailsford, has no doubt that it is about a ‘Bulgarian Uprise’ (“Macedonia: Its Races and their Future”, London, 1906). It is though very interesting that the founder (according to the Scopjan historians) of the Slav Macedonian nation, Christe Petkov Missirkov, named the mentioned Uprising a ‘Bulgarian manoeuvre’:

“The only Macedonian Slavs who played a leading part in the Uprising were those who called themselves as Bulgarians. The ‘intelligentsia’ not only of the other Macedonian nationalities but also of the Macedonian Slavs theselves did not figure among the leaders of the Revolutionary Committee” (Missirkov, K.P., “On Macedonian Matters”, Scopje, 1974:57 – written in 1904).

This Bulgarian manoeuvre, then, which lasted twelve days and in a small part of the vilayet of Monastiri, which was dyed with the blood of the Greek population of the small town Krusovo (close to Monastiri), when the Bulgarian revolutionaries abandoned it in order to save their heads, “was given by the Yugoslav-Macedonian historiography the dimensions of the American and the French Revolutions” (Mintsis, G., “History of the Macedonian Question”, Thessaloniki, 1992) and it is celebrated today as the national day of the Slav Macedonians of Scopje!

In addition, the Macedonian Slav leaders who star in the leading Committe of the Uprising, and today are considered as national heroes of the Scopjan State, are

the teachers Gotse Deltsev and Damian Grujev, from Macedonia. One can understand what sort of Macedonians they were. On the other hand, the very fond of the ‘Macedonians’, Professor of Anthropology at Bates College, Loring Danforth, gives us this important information about the greatest ‘Macedonian’ hero, Gotse Delchev, in his book, “ The Macedonian Conflict”, ( Princeton Univ. Press, New Jersey,1995:64):

“Even Gotse Delchev, the famous Macedonian revolutionary leader, whose nom de guerre was Ahil (Achilles), refers to the Slavs of Macedonia as ‘Bulgarians’ in an offhanded manner without seeming to indicate that such a designation was a point of contention” (Perry, 1988:23). “In his correspondence Gotse Delchev often states clearly and simply, “we are Bulgarians” (MacDermot, 1978:192, 273)”. It is not by chance, of course, that the Bulgarians declared Ilinden as their national day and consider Delchev as their hero and they named a Bulgarian town after him.

Who said that Scopjans falsify the Greek history only?

It is worthwhile to cite here some important views and ideas of the ‘nation maker’, Criste Petkov Missirkov.The Scopjan academic Blazhe Koneski comments in the foreword of Missirkov’s book:

“His discoveries in many ways are the discovery of ourselves… and it is not by chance that his discoveries have left their mark on the making of a nation”.

So, their nation ‘is being made’ in 1903. Missirkov himself, however, writes in relation to making of this nation:

“One of the first questions which will be posed by the opponents of national unification and of the revival movement in Macedonia is – what is the Macedonian Slav nation? Macedonian as a nationality has never existed, and it does not exist now. There have always been two Slav nationalities in Macedonia: Bulgarian and Serbian. So, any kind of Macedonian Slav national revival is simply the empty concern of a number of fanatics who have no concept of South Slav history” (Missirkov, 1974: 151).

And he gives the answer later on: “The first objection – that the Macedonian Slav nationality has never existed – may be very simply answered as follows: what has not existed in the past may still be brought into existence later, provided that the appropriate historical circumstances arise” (Missirkov, 1974: 152).

And later on:

“If our opponents will admit that smaller ethnographic units have been formed from larger groups as a result of historical necessity, and if they have hitherto regarded Macedonians as Bulgarians why is it that they can not agree that from this great ethnographic unit, which everybody including themselves describe as the Bulgarian nation, two smaller units might be formed: the Bulgarian and the Macedonian?… The emergence of the Macedonians as a separate Slav people is a perfectly normal historical process which is quite in keeping with the process by which the Bulgarian, Croatian and Serbian peoples emerged from the South Slav group” (p. 153).

In other opportunity he explains why now (in 1903) is the appropriate historical circumstances for that separation:

“It might be possible after liberation to think of unification with Bulgaria but this year has shown us that historical circumstances will never allow all Macedonia to unite with Bulgaria”(Missirkov 1974:155).

And later on, concerning the so called ‘Macedonian’ language, he notes:

“Within the South Slav system of languages there are some branches out of the Serbian and Bulgarian political unit: these are the Macedonian dialects. The people who spoke those dialects have been called Slavs sometimes, and later Serbs or Bulgarians, until a dispute started between those two names , a fact that alienated the Macedonian Slavs who started to call themselves Macedonians from the geographic name of their country” (Missircoff, 1974:159). 

So, according to the most eminent Scopjan source, in the beginning of the twentieth century they are struggling to exist nationally and linguistically! As a particular Slav nation, of course.  On the other hand, Missirkov characterises as ‘wretched case’ his contemporary Greek Macedonian, Margaritis Dimitsas, who registered the ancient inscriptions of Macedonia and wrote the book ‘Macedonia in Speaking Stones and Preserved Monuments’(1896) (he collected and published 1,409 Greek and 189 Roman inscriptions in Macedonia, from the 6th century B.C. to the 18th century A.D.), “because he considers that Macedonia presents an interest only before the Roman conquest”, clearly distancing himself and his compatriot Slavs from the ancient Macedonians.

The hopes, however, for a great Macedonian State of this ambitious ‘visionary’ were disappointingly contradicted by the absence of any ‘Macedonian’ from the “Macedonian Struggle” (1904-1908), when Greeks and Bulgarians competed for Macedonia and no ‘Macedonian’ declared candidacy in the Ottoman Elections of 1908, when four Greek Representatives and two Bulgarians from Macedonia were elected in the newly formed Ottoman Parliament by the so called movement of the “New Turks”. Moreover, the Turk count Husein Hilmi Pasha, wanting to register the nationalities of the Ottoman lands of Europe in 1904, conducted a census in the so called Macedonian vilayets (districts) of Thessaloniki,  Monastiri (today’s Bitola) and Kossovo (Scopje) and again were found:

Vilayet of Thessaloniki: Greeks:  373,227.  Bulgarians: 207,317.

Vilayet of Monastiri:     Greeks:  261,283.  Bulgarians: 178,412.

Vilayet of Kossovo (Scopje): Greeks: 13,452.  Bulgarians: 172,735, (“Macedonia, History and Politics”, Athens,1992).

It is noteworthy that so much in the census of Hilmi Pasha as in other censuses before that in Macedonia, reference was made in the existence of Greeks, Bulgarians, Turks, Serbs, Jews, Gipsies and other nationalities but never of ‘Macedonians’. Macedonians with the geographical sense of the term were called all the inhabitants of the broader area of Macedonia, a fact that Missirkov himself unreservedly accepts and pinpoints. It is noteworthy that this Slav‘Macedonian’ visualiser a few years before his death renounced his separatist ideas and died and was buried in Bulgaria (1926).

In 1908, however, the Institute Geographiko De Agostini published maps showing

the distribution of the Greek, Bulgarian, Serbian and Romanian schools in the vilayets of Thessaloniki and Monastiri. The Greek Communities of both vilayets had about 1,000 schools with 70,000 students: the Bulgarian Communities of the same vilayets had 592 schools with 30,000 students. In addition the Greeks had private schools attended by more than 8,000 children (see Dakin D. “The Greek Struggle in Macedonia, 1897-1903”). The Turkish census and the De Agostini maps agree with each other in two things; in the beginning of the 20th century: a. there are no ethnic Macedonians in Macedonia, and b. the Greeks outnumbered the Bulgarians (the today’s ‘Macedonians’), nearly 2:1 in the two vilayets, which corresponded approximately to the classical Macedonia.

On the other hand, the aforementioned armed “Macedonian Struggle” between Greeks and Bulgarians in Macedonia was disrupted by the revolution of the New-Turks, who overturned the Ottoman regime of monarchy and promised equal rights to all the enslaved minorities of the Ottoman Empire. For Hellenism this four-year struggle consolidated the Greek superiority in Macedonia and it manifested to the European Powers that Hellenism constituted the most substantial factor which was going to form the future of this ottoman province. The success of this Struggle must be contributed, firstly, to the fact that many Greeks from all over Greece came and fought along with their Macedonian compatriots, and secondly, as the English historian Dakin points out, “because the Greeks fought in an area where a friendly and relative population lived, who were attached to the Ecumenical Patriarchate and to the Greek idea, regardless if they spoke Greek or not” (Dakin D., “The Greek Struggle in Macedonia, 1897-1903”).