Is there a need for Macedonian national scientific, scholarly and literary societies?
The idea of forming such societies was prompted by the desire to have our interests completely separated from those of the Bulgarians. In this way we hoped to show the Russians that here in Macedonia there was no national antagonism and that it was possible for all the Macedonian nationalities to collaborate in cultural work. Furthermore, we wanted to show the Russians that there were not several Slav nationalities living in Macedonia but only one, and that the Macedonian Slavs were able on their own to break down the barriers which had been set up between them as a result of various forms of propaganda or of the education given to Macedonians in Bulgaria, Serbia or Greece. We wished to show that, despite the upbringing and education we may have had in various foreign countries or at ho-me under the influence of the various propagandists, we would, for our part, aim at fostering the general interests of Macedonia and so avoid serving as a tool for the propagandists and their aims and also fight any attempts at incorporating Macedonia into Bulgaria, Serbia or Greece.
Last year, however, there were certain people who considered that the existence of such a society was quite unnecessary because there was no exclusively Macedonian nationality in Macedonia – only Serbs and Bulgarians – and since there were already Serb and Bulgarian student societies in St. Petersburg there was no need for a Macedonian one as well.
Bearing in mind the criticism that has been leveled against our Society here and the doubt expressed as to its importance and suitability, we are bound to give an accurate report on the reasons which led to its formation. This may be done after an answer has been given to the basic declarations of our opponents, in which they struggle to prove that there is no need for a separate Macedonian Society and that it has not been formed at the right time.
Our opponents claim that this is not the time to bring up the national questions of Macedonia, when life is at least tolerable for all the nationalities. This is not the time for us to break away from Bulgaria, for she has already sacrificed so many men in the fight for our liberation and will give even more in the future. It would be pointless and ill advised to treat our own interests as separate from the general interests of Bulgaria, for our strength lies in unity and not in separation. If the national question of the Macedonians were now to be brought up we would be set back by more than thirty years. Is it even possible now to bring about the national unification of the Macedonians when in Macedonia we have several nationalities and not just one, and when there is no separate Macedonian Slav nation? To start with, it must be pointed out that they are not telling the truth when they say that this is not the time to bring up the question of the Macedonian nationalities. By ignoring this question we are not advancing even a step because although we may ignore it none of the other countries, great or small – except Bulgaria – will choose to do so. We, then, would simply be closing our eyes to an unpleasant reality. So, if we are to consider this question we will not be taking a step backwards but rather advancing through the discovery of its importance. Certainly, we will be caught up with the national question for another twenty to thirty years, but the blame for this must be laid on our predecessors who did not discover its importance and did not allow it to come to a head. I they had done so, we would not have to concern ourselves with it now if the question of the nationality of the Macedonians is of prime importance for the Bulgarians, Serbs and Greeks, and if each of these nations treats it according to his own concept, why should we not take this question into our own hands and consider it from all sides – from the Bulgarian, Serbian and Greek points of view – taking a critical look at each so as to work out a Macedonian point of view instead of allowing ourselves to be oriented towards the place where we were educated and be persuaded to adopt a Serbian, Bulgarian or Greek attitude? If we do not work out a Macedonian point of view concerning our own nationality, a point of view which will be fair and just towards all Macedonians, it will mean that we are not capable of coming to grips with ourselves independently, without influence from outside. I could not allow this to happen; for me it would be a profanation. This, then, is why in the first place I do not renounce my right to an independent attitude concerning my fellow countrymen. In my opinion, therefore, our Society is not making any tactical errors concerning the question of our nationality but simply performing certain services in the spiritual interests of the Macedonians.
Next, an answer should be given to the assertion that this is not the time to separate our interests from the general interests of Bulgaria and that such an action would be ill advised because; on the one hand, our strength lies in unification and, on the other hand, Bulgaria has made such great sacrifices for our liberation and will continue to do so.
This statement is very complex and so each question should be answered individually.
What should be pointed out first is that we are not now breaking away from Bulgaria and so destroying an already existing whole, for we have already been separated and living apart for more than twenty-five years. It was others who divided us, creating for us and for the Bulgarians two different lives with different needs, and setting us in unequal positions.
And these others will not allow us to unite. From the Macedonian point of view, the unification of all Macedonia with Bulgaria, Serbia or Greece is not desirable, but neither is it particularly frightening. Hence we would have nothing to fight for on these grounds. Neither the small Balkan states nor the great European countries will, however, agree to such a unification. So, as we do not wish to mix our interests with those of Bulgaria, we have given our agreement and are prepared to respect the present rule of law. Only one question then arises: by respecting this law are we acting to our own advantage, for it is said that Bulgaria has done so much good for us and will do still more? Let us see, then, what sort of good has been done for us by the Bulgarians.
On the appearance of Serbian propaganda the Bulgarians increased the budget of the Exarchate; in other words, they stepped up their propaganda and intensified their interests in Macedonia. They appointed several bishops and opened a number of commercial agencies; they also gave financial help to the uprising in Macedonia and supported many Macedonians who had fled to Bulgaria and were homeless. This was the good which was done for us by the Bulgarians.
What do you feel: is it enough? Or is it a lot? Or is it somewhat more than the good: which was done for us by the Serbs? If we are not to be Bulgarian chauvinists and if we are not to take a biased view of things we cannot help concluding that in, Macedonia the Bulgarians did no more for us than the Serbs. One might even state with certainty that they did less than the Serbs. The good they did, which has already been mentioned, was not done on behalf of the Macedonians but for the sake of Bulgarian interests in Macedonia. Thus Bulgarian money spent on Macedonia is of no greater importance than Serbian money. The Bulgarians appointed bishops to Macedonia; do not forget that even in the more important places these bishops were generally Bulgarians and not Macedonians. The Bulgarians wished to use the bishops to get rid of everything that did not suit them, particularly self-govern-ment in the church and in the borough councils. The Serbs, too, wished to use their bishops to perform the same service for us. Why should they be to blame for our having preferred to be a tool of the Bulgarians than the Serbs? The Bulgarians opened commercial agencies in Macedonia! But in whose interest? Not the Macedonians’, of course, but the Bulgarians’. The Serbs channeled their interest in Macedonia through their consulates and consulates general.
If the Bulgarian commercial agencies were a blessing to us, the Serbian consulates general were an even greater one. The Bulgarians supported our uprising. So did the Serbs. The Bulgarians offered more help because it suited their interests and not because it suited our needs. The Serbs offered their aid in order not to be left behind the Bulgarians: but if Serbian interests had been really bound up with the uprising Serbia would by now have declared war a hundred times against Turkey without waiting for help from anywhere and without wondering whether the outcome would be in her favor or not. The Bulgarians have fed homeless Macedonians, but so have the Serbs.
This is all the good we have received from the Bulgarians. Now let us see how we have paid for this good or how much it has cost us.
If we review what has happened since the last Russo-Turkish war we will realize that all the good the Bulgarians performed for the Macedonians was no more than compensation for the stupidities which they, the Bulgarians, perpetrated over the Macedonian question. In the hands of Bulgarian diplomats and the Bulgarian people, the Macedonian question gave rise to numerous foolish mistakes which were incurred at the expense of the Macedonians through the so-called victories of the Bulgarian independent policy. These follies committed by the Bulgarians are for us Macedonians an ancient parental sin which will be passed on from generation to generation.
And this is what lies behind the ancient parental sin: The Bulgarians were liberated by the Russians. At that time Russian society was caught by a wave of Slavophile enthusiasm; this enthusiasm cost them about two hundred and fifty thousand soldiers and billions of rubles. But what was the result of that war? The Russians continued fighting against Turkey and, with their own blood, succeeded in liberating almost all the small Balkan states. But never before have the Russians been so disappointed as they were during this last war. Their disappointment was so acute that they wanted to bury their former enthusiasm and their aspirations to liberate the Slavs on the Balkan peninsula. Their, last burst of enthusiasm – and with it the hopes that Macedonia had placed in Russia – was expended on the Bulgarians. The behavior of the Bulgarian people to-wards the Russian soldiers and the conduct of the Bulgarian intelligentsia in dealing with the Russian authorities and diplomats was such that the Russians regretted a thousand times over their involvement with these “little brothers”. This regret has penetrated so deep into the souls of all Russians that they now no longer wish even to hear of any “brothers” whatsoever, let alone the Bulgarians. Who is now paying for the behavior and the mistakes of the Bulgarians if not we, the Macedonians? The enthusiasm of Russia brought about the birth of Bulgaria, but, with the birth of Bulgaria, Russia died for us. All the Macedonians’ hopes were stillborn because of Bulgaria.
We had hoped that our faith in Bulgaria would be able to grow and strengthen, that she would offer us help and that with her we could begin to live a free life. Once a free Bulgaria existed, we thought, we would have no need of Russia. Our expectations were supported by the Bulgarians and it seemed as if they would be realized. But Bulgaria, like the late Serbian king, Alexander, proclaimed herself to be of age and indulged in a number of absolute follies which she described as her policy of independence.
She ruined her good relations with Russia and called on Stambolov to place Bulgaria in the hands of the Triple Pact and of England so that she could be used as a weapon against Russia. This new era in the history of Bulgaria, this policy of independence, began with the unification of Bulgaria and Eastern Rumelia and the dissolution of the Berlin Treaty, in which lay the Macedonians’ rights to autonomy with a Christian governor-general. The dissolution of the Berlin agreement and the emergence of Stambolov’s regime, christened as the “independent national” policy of Bulgaria, the policy of a politically capricious, immature and abortive undertaking, marked the second blow against the political freedom of the Macedonians. Europe and Russia endeavored to work out a plan of reform for Macedonia, and in 1882 this plan was already completed; they would also have struggled to have it introduced but since the new “political factors” in the Balkans put their veto to the plan, the foreign powers asked not for reforms but for Bulgarian bishops in Macedonia. This, indeed, came to be; but we Macedonians entrusted ourselves to the Bulgarians, believing that Bulgaria through her “policy of independence” was doing no more than maintaining a political victory and that she would reward us with blessings. She pulled the wool smartly over our eyes. Hardly five or six years had passed before Bulgaria’s initial enthusiasm with the policy of “independence” began to cool off. The advances which the Serbian propagandists were making in Macedonia convinced them that they were not the only factor in the Macedonian question and that, in addition to themselves, there were other interested parties and that in the competition success would fall on the side where Russia’s support lay.
The Bulgarians, therefore, now became Russophiles; yet they did not do so for pure motives but because they wanted to lure the Russians into helping them administer their own interests in Macedonia. But they were not able to reconcile themselves to the state of affairs in Russian foreign policy because the Russian consuls in Macedonia were supporting Serbian propaganda. As a result, certain political parties accused Russia of being the enemy of Bulgaria and of everything Bulgarian, their main reason for this accusation being Russia’s support of Serbian propaganda. The political figures in Bulgaria were unable to see that Russia’s attitude was largely determined by their own stupidity which had passed under the name of an “independent” or “national” policy. And since this “independent” and “national” policy was being used as a weapon by the enemies of Russia against Russian interests on the Balkan peninsula, how could these Bulgarian politicians expect the Russian government to remain completely disinterested in events in the Balkans when for more than a century this Peninsula has been the care of Russia? She must look after her own interests there even if this does not suit Bulgaria’s “independent” and “national” policy. Through their foreign policy the Bulgarians have become Russophiles and the Russians have to some extent altered their policy towards them. But the Bulgarians’ Russophilism was calculated, and did not last long. And Russian policy could not be permanently changed. Only one thing was unknown: to what extent was Bulgarian foreign policy honest and long lasting? Recently the Bulgarians have been dissatisfied with Russian policy, particularly on account of the appointment of Firmilyan and of the Macedonian uprising. They claim that when Danov’s ministry put Bulgaria’s foreign policy in the hands of the Russians they received no help in return; all that happened was that Firmilyan was appointed to Skopje and nothing was done for Macedonia. If Bulgaria had been able to pursue an “independent” and “national” policy she would not have allowed this to happen and would have settled the Macedonian question by granting greater reforms.
This is Bulgarian reasoning. But if we are to set out from the independent Macedonian point of view we must point out that Bulgaria with its Russophilism did no service whatsoever either to Russia or to Macedonia. Instead, it used this Russsophilism to acquire a loan which it received thanks to Russia’s participation. What is most important, however, is that these millions which were loaned to Bulgaria were not used for the purpose of war but to fill the state coffers. And even if it had pursued an “independent” and “national” policy, i.e. if it had been a part of the Triple Pact against Russia, Bulgaria would still have achieved nothing because now the relations between Russia and Bulgaria are not as strained as they were at the time of Stambolov. The members of the Triple Pact have now reached a special agreement concerning international questions; they are, working together on, these and quashing all the caprices of the small states which are trying to alter the balance of power in their own favor. There is now no place for Stambolov’s policy. The revival of Stambolov’s regime in Bulgaria can in no way be justified and would merely be a new political caprice doomed to miscarry. But it is not the Bulgarians who will suffer from these caprices; it is we, the Macedonians, who will suffer, as indeed we already do. Our new friends in Bulgaria say that Russia is to blame for this, that she feared the emergence of a Greater Bulgaria and that this was why Firmilyan was appointed. Russia does not now wish to grant autonomy to Macedonia and has left us to make our own preparations and to fight against Turkey.
Such claims are no more than lies and false accusations made against Russia the liberator by a nation which has been freed from bondage but which is still bound by its own servile instincts which it uses to justify its own “independent” and “national” policy. These people, who are the first and final cause of all our misfortunes, have by their folly drawn us into an unequal battle against the Turks and, at the most decisive moment; left us to our fate.
Bulgaria has brought about slaughter in Macedonia similar to that caused by the English in Armenia, and so she has lost her influence in Macedonia. But Bulgaria badly needs this influence and so she is constantly trying to persuade us that as long as a free Bulgaria exists the Macedonian question will not be buried; this is in fact a ploy to justify her own egoistic behavior and to cast on the Russians the blame for all the misfortunes that have befallen us.
Is it not naпve to believe that Russia fears the emergence of a Greater Bulgaria, that she did not wish to see Macedonia liberated and that for the same reasons she stood behind the appointment of Firmilyan? First, let us see who is to blame for the present uprising and who must accept the greatest responsibility for it. Russia told us more than once that she would not spill a single drop of blood and that she would not offer us even the minimal material aid if we started an uprising. In connection with the Macedonian question Russia frequently issued government procla-mations and on numerous occasions sent memoranda to the Bulgarian and Turkish authorities. In all these announcements Russia made it perfectly clear that we were to bide our time and that if we caused any disturbance she would not be able, and would not wish, to help us. In other words, Russia washed her hands in advance of all the misfortunes resul-ting from an uprising in Macedonia. After all this can we accuse Russia of dishonesty or subterfuge? Why then should we be angry with Russia? If we are not mistaken, the Revolutionary Committee and the Organization of the uprising expected help from Bulgaria and not from Russia because in their opinion and in that of the Bulgarian Exarchate the people living in Macedonia are Bulgarians. There are no Russians. Therefore Bulgaria should either have helped or declared categorically that nothing could be expected from her. But Bulgaria did neither the one thing nor the other. She did not offer help because the Bulgarians are a calculating people and would be ready to take Macedonia if someone were to offer it to her; otherwise, if it wanted, it could go to ruin.
None of the Balkan peoples could look calmly on at the destruction of a region in which their fellow countrymen live. If the initiative for the uprising had been given by the Greeks or the Serbs, and if these people had known that the uprising would be so powerful, they would have declared war and paid no heed to the consequences even if this war were to end by causing them harm. But the Bulgarians are not of the same caliber: they will declare war only if there exists some other country which will ensure that Bulgaria gets the spoils of the war. And since such assurances are never certain without the engagement of one of the great powers, or several of them, fighting to ensure victory, it was not possible to expect the Bulgarians to intervene in Macedonian affairs. But, since this was how matters stood, the Bulgarians might clearly have told the Macedonians not to expect anything from them; like this the unpleasant outcome might well have been avoided. The “far-reaching” policy of the prince and his “independent” and “national” collaborators should have foreseen and prevented these misfortunes. But the policy makers did nothing. They allowed the uprising to be launched in the belief that if their policy of “independence” were to have no effect then the blood of the Macedonians would induce the “great liberator” to set aside her own affairs and join in our fight, so that later she would be called to Berlin and so lose Manchuria and her influence in Persia. This was an incorrect approach to Macedonian matters and the chief culprits were the Bulgarian officials and the Bulgarian people, who were unable to prevent their rulers from following their chosen course and could not persuade them to take up the cause of their Macedonian “clients” And now the blame for this incorrect approach is being laid upon Russia, upon official circles in Russia, who have nothing in common with the people. The “brothers” whom the Russians liberated will not now admit their mistakes and so they are all declaring themselves to be Russophiles, lovers of the Russian people, but not of the Russian government, which does not express the feelings of the people towards the Macedonians and which dismisses all feelings of sympathy the people may hold towards Macedonia. As proof of these allegations the Bulgarians quote the “secret” government circulars forbidding all further printing of articles On the Macedonian Matters.
Here in Macedonia, and in Bulgaria as well, this decree of the Russian government might be misinterpreted, and so it would be advisable to say a few words about it here. First, it should be mentioned that as far as the Macedonian question is concerned there exists no difference in attitude between the Russian government and the Russian people, there is only a difference in the intensity of their interest: Russian society and the Russian people are far less interested than the government, as can be seen by the aid which is intended for the Macedonians. If we compare this aid with that given to the Boers’ of the Transvaal, a great difference will be observed in that they took a greater interest in the Boers’ battle than in ours. This relative lack of interest is the result of the Russians’ disappointment in their “brothers” And for this we are supposed to be saying “thank you” to the Bulgarians! The Russian authorities have always given full freedom to the press in their country to print articles on all questions, and this freedom lasts for as long as a question is under considera-tion or until a final solution is found. Once a problem has been exhausted, however, and a final solution has been given, circulars are distributed stating that this question is now closed.
This is not done because they want to deprive the papers of their freedom to print but because in the Balkan Peninsula great importance is given to all articles related to Balkan matters and so it is expected that the authorities, under the influence of the press, will alter their policy. The authorities in Russia wish to save us from entertaining futile hopes.
This is all very well, some may argue, but how are we to explain away Russia’s policy concerning Firmilyan? Clearly this is a Serbophile policy. Well, let us see if it really is so clear.
The reasons for the appointment of Firmilyan will once again clearly show what a misfortune it is for us that we are known as Bulgarians. These reasons will prove that Bulgaria – that political disaster – is not capable of protecting our interests, or even her own.
Bulgaria has few diplomats, and even fewer abroad. And even those it does have abroad are not capable of improving the reputation of Bulgaria; on the contrary, they destroy it and mock both themselves and their country. As proof of this it will be sufficient to recall only three of them: Bechkov, the secretary and gйrant of the Trade Agency in Bitola; Tsokov, the diplomat in London; and Stanchev, the diplomat in St. Petersburg.
Ask whomever you like in Bitola about Beshkov, be it the staff of the local consulates, the Bulgarian teachers, the Vlachs, the citizens of Bitola or, finally, the gypsies with whom Beshkov is always chatting as he loafs around the town-they will all tell you who Beshkov is. Yet the Serbs have an excellent representative in Bitola. who enjoys the full respect of the consul; and that is M. Ristich.
Mr. Tsokov displayed all his diplomacy in his conversation with the Reuter correspondent.
But the most interesting case is that of Stanchev, first as a personality, then as a diplomat, and finally as a diplomat holding the most important diplomatic post in Bulgaria.
What is immediately striking about Stanchev is that he has been holding the same position for as long as I have known of him (about nine years). This fact is, on the face of it, most comforting because it would seem to point to a certain stability in Bulgarian politics. It is true that the Serbian deputies spend several years in St. Petersburg, but after four or five years they are changed. This consoling fact, however, is only superficially reassuring. During the very first years of my studies I was asked what sort of man I considered Stanchev to be.
As I knew nothing about him I explained that I was not in a position to assess him. They then showed me a German book with the title Die Wahreit ьber Bulgarien. I asked them to lend it to me so that I could read it through. It was after being given this book that I first became acquainted with Stanchev and with Bulgarian affairs, particularly with the status and authority of the Bulgarian deputy in St. Petersburg. Later I heard certain facts about Stanchev and his life in St. Petersburg, facts similar to those mentioned in certain passages of the book just referred to. Through my conversations with journalists I learnt that Stanchev had tried without success to exert his influence upon them. All in all, everybody whom I met or spoke to either did not know Stanchev or else spoke badly of him. They say, however, that during the past year Stanchev himself has sunk very low and, in so doing, lowered the prestige of Bulgaria in St. Petersburg further than even the greatest enemy of Bulgaria would have done.
And are the Bulgarians aware that while they have their Stanchev in St. Petersburg, the Serbs have Dashich, Gruyich and Novakovich in the same capital? These diplomats are alternately in St. Petersburg or Istanbul and remain several years in one place or the other.
They have a wide circle of acquaintances in St. Petersburg and enjoy a warm reception amongst the higher circles of Russian society, upon whom they also exert considerable influence. Their acquaintances include diplomats, professors, editors and newspaper publi-shers.
They speak with conviction and with a profound knowledge of affairs. To this it should be added that Serbian foreign policy is well established and that the Serbs have numerous other assistants in addition to the diplomats mentioned. It will be readily understood that the appointment of Firmilyan is a victory for Serbian diplomacy and a defeat for the Bulgarians, a victory won by the Serbs through their own strength and not something taken over from the Russians; the Bulgarians’ defeat was due to the absence of diplomats capable of understanding Bulgarian interests and of defending them through their knowledge and authority.
But Zinoviev sympathized with the Serbs and helped them. This may be true, but he did so not because he hated the Bulgarians but because, as is only logical, the Serbian delegates to Istanbul know their own interests well and are able to protect them. So too, perhaps, the Russian consuls in Macedonia are defending Serbian interests not out of compassion but because the Serbs, like the Bulgarians, are Slavs, and because the Serbs better understand their own interests and are better able to defend them.
So, Bulgarian foreign policy cannot be criticized. But it is the main source of all our misfortunes. This is why one cannot speak of the good which Bulgaria may have done for Macedonia. Is there any good in the material help given by Bulgaria to the uprising, support which has forced us to split up the strength of the people in whom we once found our strength, so that now we are nothing? Is it good that the Bulgarians took care of the Macedonian refugees when Bulgaria was, first and foremost, responsible for the destruction of their homes? Is it good that the Bulgarians offer official posts to Macedonian’s, who then, on account of their new allegiance, forget their fatherland and sacrifice the interests of Macedonia to those of Bulgaria? Are not the Macedonians who serve Bulgaria, or are candidates for service with the Bulgarians, those who gave a false twist to the actions of the Russian administrators by laying upon them Stambolov’s interpretation and invoking them as an excuse to flout the Russians’ plea for cautiousness? Oh, Macedonians! It is time we realized that the greatest demon Macedonia must battle against is none other than Bulgaria; and this is why we must keep our interests apart from those of Bulgaria. Common sense demands it.
It is clear from all that has been said above that the Bulgarians’ goodness towards the Macedonians is in no way different from that of the Serbs though it costs us a hundred times as much: 1. For the Bulgarian name, which has been endowed upon us by the Exarchate, we have taken over not up to me to try and find out whether some evil Bulgarian demon is responsible for all the evil the Bulgarians have brought upon us, the Macedonians. All that is clear to me is that a great part of our misfortune is the work of the Bulgarian people. The Prince is not to blame, for instance, for the fact that the Bulgarians have no good diplomats.
If, for example, Stanchev is the Prince’s representative and not the representative of Bulgaria, this is not true of Tsokov, Beshkov and others. No excuses can be made for the Bulgarian people, because unworthy diplomats belong to one party or another and because the, Prince exercises his right to make his choice from one party or another according to personal orientation. The chief misfortune for Bulgaria and her interests is not only that there are many parties and that they do not all know the interests of their people well, it is also that the Bulgarians have not acquired a sufficient grasp of their national interests, especially those connected with the external world. The Bulgarians do not have a national ideal which would be worthy of all their people and sacred to all of them. These ideals are born by the history of the people but they are added to over a more lengthy period of history. The individual people in any nation should for a long time be inspired by the same national ideal, an ideal which is valid for all and sacred for all. These ideals should be formulated by the most eminent representatives of the nation and accepted by each individual. National ideals should constitute a program towards the realization of which all the combined strength of the nation should be directed. National ideals cannot be realized all of a sudden; their realization should come about as the result of the united and self-sacrificing work of the people. The difficulties encountered in achieving these national ideals serve simply to strengthen the spirit of the people and prepare them for an even greater struggle. On the other hand, if a nation acquires political freedom or gains something else which is important for the life of the people, and if the people play little or no active part in this, either because the national ideals are not yet clearly defined or, if they are defined, because they have not been accepted by all individuals, then the people will not value the national ideals, they will be like a man without any definite aim or course of action. Such a man will turn now to one side now to the other, not because he is convinced that this is how he should act but because he sees around him people whose actions are indiscriminate.
If we look back on recent Bulgarian history what do we see: Bulgaria acquired political freedom, which is most important in the life of a nation, at a time when she still had no national ideals and when the Bulgarians themselves did not know what they wanted. The Bulgarians got their freedom with the minimum of sacrifice and effort; Russia gave it to them. The liberation created an enormous gulf between the old Bulgarian history and life, and the new. In the past the Bulgarians had lived in darkness and so they turned away from this period in their history to appear in their newly won era of freedom as a people without traditions, national ideals or a concept of national and state interests and heritage from the past. So, Bulgaria emerged as a historically unformed state. Thanks to the efforts of Russia this political weakling was somewhat strengthened, but no sooner had it begun to feel the stirrings of its own power than it began to lay claims to a policy of independence which was to be the source of Macedonia’s misfortune.
But this policy of independence was not only the cause of our misfortunes; it was also a natural reason for separating our interests from those of Bulgaria and an incentive to the Macedonians here to form a Macedonian Society.
There are other reasons for the formation of this society: the need, for instance, to turn our intellectual powers to the examination of ourselves as members of a people and of a country. In order to achieve this aim it was necessary to form a society of those for whom the study of Macedonia in the ethnographic, geographic and historical sense would be of prime importance; we Macedonians are such people.
If we are to achieve this aim we should break away from the other Balkan peoples and turn independently and critically to an examination of ourselves and our interests, and also of the Balkan peoples and their interests. By so doing we will avoid making the same mistakes as the other Balkan nations.
In order to illustrate more clearly the advantage to be gained by keeping ourselves apart from the other nations it should be sufficient to take a critical look at the Bulgarian and Serbian student societies here in St. Petersburg.
The Bulgarian students are ambitious to be considered as the forerunners of the latest trends of thought. Nationalism is of no importance to them; they consider it to be redundant and outmoded. They are internationalists. First of all they consider themselves people and only then, if they have time, Bulgarians as well. For them mankind is of greater importance than Bulgaria and so they are more interested in Switzerland or the United States and their history than in Bulgaria with its national interests. The Bulgarian youth here is doing everything in its power to give an appearance of being highly advanced, i.e. socialist: this means-interminable and senseless discussions, long hair, well-groomed beards, red or blue Russian shirts and so forth. They are not concerned with national questions and listen with great boredom to lectures on ethnography or any other field of study except political economy. Never the less, each one of them considers it his duty to criticize everything. They are not concerned with scientific questions but they are, by way of compensation, good organizers: they can organize lotteries, spread propaganda, hold a soirйe for charity, without giving much thought to the fact that they may disgrace themselves and future generations of Bulgarian students in St. Petersburg. In general, they are ready to take up anything that does not demand great pains, and so they are self-centered and eager for popularity. They consider Macedonia to be Bulgarian in the ethnographic sense but find it unnecessary to waste their energy on getting to know the country better; as a result they know nothing about it, about its history, geography and ethnography. All they know is that there are rebel detachments and rebel fighters who should be aided; and this aid comes from lotteries and not from them personally. This Platonic, only Platonic, and shallow sympathy for the Macedonians, this lack of understanding for their national interests, this absence of national ideals and this longing for popularity through adherence to socialism is a reflection of the spiritual condition of the Bulgarian people and of their society. Hence it is easy to see how ill equipped the Bulgarians are to defend not only our interests but their own as well.
The Serbian students leave one with quite the opposite impression. The Serbs are not internationalists; regardless of whether they come from Serbia, Bosnia, Herzegovina or Montenegro, they are all nationalists. They know that they are first of all Serbs, and then people. They all know of and take an interest in Serbs and things Serbian to be found in other countries. They know their own history and the history of the neighboring peoples and lands. They are primarily interested in the study of culture and history, which they learn as a means for achieving Serbian national aims. In order to defend Serbian interests in the eyes of the Russians they translate or edit books in Russian relating to historical questions. This utilitarian, tendentious and speculative relation towards learning cannot be admired, for it is both the cause and the consequence of national chauvinism, but it is the consequence – at least as far as national chauvinism is concerned – of the historical circumstances affecting the Serbs, particularly after the Berlin agreement. We might accuse the Serbs of being chauvinists, but they are no greater chauvinists than the Bulgarians. The Serbs are nationalists with a good understanding of their national ideals and interests, who, through work, study, writing and diplomacy, are moving as one man along a common path and this is why they beat the Bulgarians at every step. The Serb’s are chauvinists, they are fierce defenders of their national interests when these are threatened by the enemy; but if we are to compare Serbian chauvinism with Bulgarian national indifference, and to survey them from the Macedonian and universal point of view we shall have to admit that Serbian chauvinism, as the result of a fundamental knowledge of national interests, stands far higher than Bulgarian national indifference, which results from the lack of any understanding whatsoever of Bulgarian state interests. At a time when the Serbs, from the king and the ministers right down to the man-in-the-street, are all nationalists and consider it essential that they should all be united in a single body, the Bulgarians are splitting up into socialists and various other -ists, who are far from wishing to prove the truth of the saying “unity makes might”. What the Serbs have achieved is all the result of the political maturity of the people: for a whole century they have cherished their national ideals and studied their national interests, and the Bulgarians have tried to do this in a mere twenty-five years.
Come what may, our separation from the Bulgarians will afford us the chance of taking up a critical attitude towards Bulgarian affairs and help us to avoid copying them blindly and transplanting socialism into Macedonia instead of nationalism, as the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization has done. By divorcing our interests from those of Bulgaria we will be saved from aping the merciless acts of the Bulgarians and from having to accept their assurances that Bulgaria is our benefactor and Russia our greatest enemy; thus we will also develop a critical attitude towards our own actions and those of others.
Can there be any greater justification for the existence and activity of our Society? There is, surely, no more we can do now than pray God to help us increase the number of Macedonian societies, similar to the Sv. Kliment society in St. Petersburg, wherever Macedonians are living.