Early Macedonian Immigration

A Snapshot Of Early Macedonian Immigration to USA

A Snapshot Of Early Macedonian Immigration to USA

By Dusan Sinadinoski

Records on early Macedonian immigration to the United States of America at the turn of the 20th century are of paramount importance for establishing support of a Macedonian ethnic identity. But they also serve another extremely useful purpose: reflecting away attacks against the Macedonian ethnicity perpetrated by the Greek and Bulgarian states. Knowing the vital impact that these records will have on the many current debates and questions about the Macedonian identity, one can only wonder how it is possible that such a wealth of information remains obscure and basically untapped. A simple snapshot of it reveals startling discoveries which could shatter the opponents’ claim that the Macedonian ethnic identity is a recent creation.

Based on the United States Immigration and Naturalization records, approximately 15,000 people who entered the United States of America between 1895 an 1925 identified themselves as Macedonians -- even though the state of Macedonia did not exist at the time. The existence of a separate and a distinct Macedonian ethnic identity is still being feverishly denied by Greece and Bulgaria (two Balkan countries that are members of the European Union, but still trenched in 19th century Balkan ethnocentrism), who claim that the Macedonian state and Macedonians are not an outcome of a long and historically proven process, but rather a recent act of creation by Stalin and Tito during World War II. If this argument is true, then we are faced with a paradox: how is it possible for such a relatively large number of people to declare themselves Macedonians before, as the Greeks claim, the Macedonian existence was even created?

It is very difficult to determine the exact number of Macedonians who immigrated to America for many varying reasons. The main reason is that Macedonia did not become an independent country until 1991, after the break up of Yugoslavia. Throughout the centuries, especially in modern times, Macedonia was either a part of the Turkish empire as a whole or, after the Balkan wars, it was divided amongst Greece, Bulgaria, Albania and Serbia (Yugoslavia after 1945). Thus, many Macedonians who immigrated from these countries carried their passports and were identified as nationals from Greece, Bulgaria or Serbia (Yugoslavia). The ability to determine the exact number of Macedonian immigrants to America is further complicated by the fact that there was lack of recorded and verifiable standardized data in the above mentioned countries for the immigrants to carry with them for identification purposes. If any such records exist, it is doubtful that those records would have shown entries such as date of birth, place of birth, first and last name, current residence, ethnicity or nationality, gender, or occupation. It is reasonable to assume, therefore, that many Macedonian immigrants may have listed the name of their country of origin as their ethnic identity (whichever country happened to occupy Macedonia during that specific historical period). It is also likely that Macedonians, as well as other ethnic groups, may have not distinguished between the concepts of nationality and ethnicity since both were relatively new to the indigenous peoples of Macedonia. But many Macedonians , despite all odds in the wake of unprecedented and relentless attempts at the suppression of their ethnic identity and nationality, declared themselves as Macedonians upon arrival to America.

The data below (which was extracted from the United States Immigration and Naturalization records, as copied from the National Archives and Records Administration (MARA) microfilm), show the number of passengers that entered the various ports of the United States of America and declared themselves Macedonians:

# of Passengers; Port of Entry

13, 776; New York Passenger Lists, 1820 - 1957
338; Baltimore Passenger Lists, 1820 - 1948
256; Galveston Passenger Lists, 1896 - 1948
173; Boston Passenger Lists, 1820 - 1943
130; Atlantic Ports Passenger Lists, 1820 - 1873 and 1893 - 1959
46; Philadelphia Passenger Lists, 1800 - 1945
8; Detroit Border Crossing and Passenger Crew Lists, 1905 - 1957
6; New Orleans Passenger Lists, 1820 - 1945
2; Border Crossings from Canada to US, 1895 - 1956
2; Seattle Passenger and Crew Lists, 1882 - 1957

It is astonishing to discover that 14,737 passengers declared themselves as Macedonians during times when there was no official recognition of the Macedonian ethnic identity and no Macedonian state in existence. These numbers in themselves are not significant in comparison to the millions of immigrants of other nationalities who entered the United Sates during those times. These numbers also pale in comparison to the approximately 600,000 Greek immigrants who came to the United States. However, what is significant is that these immigrants chose freely and consciously to identify themselves as Macedonians upon their arrival to America. There is no doubt that those people must have not only felt different from the Greeks, Serbs, Bulgarians and the Turks, but they also had to have felt that they belonged to a unique ethnic group of their own -- which they identified as Macedonian.

These Macedonians are clearly and unambiguously speaking to those who still object to the Macedonian ethnic identity and who argue that the modern Macedonians are products of Stalin’s and Tito’s hallucinations. Hence, the argument that the modern state of the Republic of Macedonia and the Macedonian ethnic nationality was not historical but a political “creation” cannot explain how these people suddenly and magically “became“ Macedonians upon their arrival to the United States.

Another very important set of data contained in the US Immigration and Naturalization records regarding the early Macedonian immigration to America indicates that they listed different countries as a country of origin as shown below:

Country of Origin; Number of Passengers

Turkey; 4,979
Greece; 906
Macedonia; 4,194
Bulgaria; 267
Albania; 5
Serbia; 188

Here it is clearly shown that the largest number of Macedonian immigrants, 4,979 Macedonians to be exact, listed Turkey as their country of origin. This is because prior to the Balkan wars of 1913, all of Macedonia belonged to Turkey. But what really sticks out here is that almost an equal number of Macedonians listed Macedonia as their country of origin even though it had not become a state. Additionally, what pokes at the Greek and Bulgarian ethnically chauvinistic eyes is how such small numbers of Macedonians declare Greece and Bulgaria as their countries of origin. The reason for this, as we will see later, is that immediately after the Balkan wars, Greece, Bulgaria and Serbia did not have their propaganda campaigns for converting the Macedonian population into their own nationalities established within their newly “liberated” parts of Macedonia.

This was a period of massive migration from Macedonia to neighboring countries and to America because of depressive economic conditions and political persecutions. Soon afterwards, Bulgaria, Greece and Serbia intensified their efforts of converting the Macedonians to the point where they would send many of their own teachers and priests to Macedonia so that there were more educators in Macedonia than in their counties combined. As the data will show later, Greece, the “cradle” of democracy, would go even further by making sure that there would never again be Macedonians to emigrate from Greece to the United States of America.

However, not all immigrants who listed Macedonia as their country of origin declared themselves as Macedonians. In addition to the 14,737 Macedonians, many other immigrants from Macedonia identified themselves as follows:

Nationality; Number of Passengers

Greek; 13,199
Turkish; 1,083
Bulgarian; 3,594
Serbian; 13
Albanian; 331

It is shown here that the largest number of them identified themselves as Greeks. Significant numbers also declared themselves as Bulgarian and Turks. The large number of Greeks from Macedonia can be explained mostly by the fact that there were many Greeks living in the agean part of Macedonia. Some Macedonians may have been already converted to Greeks. However, what these numbers do not tell us is whether all of those immigrants were Greeks, Turks or Bulgarians, or whether they simply chose whichever way was most expedient to arrive at the shores of America. But to appropriately clarify their true nationality, additional research of other relevant data is needed, such as birth places, first and last names, the language which they spoke, customs which they practiced, and etc. For instance, the records show that some people declared themselves Turkish even tough their names were clearly Christian and Slavic. However, it also fair to assume that there were many immigrants from Macedonia of different nationalities since Macedonia was truly a multi-ethnic country prior to its subdivision by Greece, Bulgaria and Serbia..

The picture of the Macedonian immigrants from Macedonia and the neighboring countries starts to look very different after World War I. As the Balkan countries started to emerge from the devastation of WWI and began to take hold of their destinies, they also started to inflame their nationalism by intensifying their efforts to crack down on the Macedonian ethnic identity. Thus, as soon as Macedonia disappeared from the Balkan map after WWI, so did the Macedonians. As we can see from the next table, the number of Macedonians coming from Greece dropped sharply until they completely disappeared from 1930s and on.

The table below of Macedonian immigrants to the United States of America coming from Greece clearly demonstrates to us the fate of the Macedonians in Greece:

Immigration Period; Number of Macedonians from Greece

1890 - 1910; 205
1911 - 1930; 694
1931 - 1950; 16
1951 - 1970; 0
1971 - 1990; 0
1991 - Present; 0

Since all of Macedonia was under the Ottoman Empire prior to 1910, it is highly likely that the 205 Macedonians immigrants during this period must have come from Greece proper, otherwise they would have stated either Turkey or Macedonia as their country of origin. In addition, it can also be seen that the larger number of Macedonian immigrants from Greece came during the period between 1911 - 1930. However, the majority of the 694 immigrants came prior to 1925. To be precise, 557 Macedonians came between 1911 and 1925. But here is what is really distressing about this table: what happened to the Macedonians in Greece after 1930, when we know that at least half of the Macedonian territory ended up with Greece? Is it possible that the part of Macedonia which ended up in Greece had no Macedonians living there? Or is it quite possible that no Macedonian ever again left Greece for the United States of America? No matter what question is asked, it can be safely assumed that when it comes to ethnicity and the practice of chauvinistic politics in Greece, it all becomes Greek magic!

Of course, much of the data contained in the Immigration and Naturalization archive is raw data and it needs to be supported and evaluated in order for us to draw any meaningful conclusion about the early Macedonian immigration to the United States. But even this raw data highlights the unsustainable denials of the Macedonian ethnic identity. Unless one somehow believes that this data was either manipulated, or the passengers were coerced to declare themselves as Macedonian (both of which would make no sense), the presence of a unique Macedonian ethnic identity coming to United States from Macedonia is undeniable. How far back the Macedonians date is the task of historians, archeologists and other scientific researchers. But it is obvious that the Macedonian people freely spoke at the doorstep of their new country that welcomed them
with the open arms.

People who are familiar with the history of the Balkan countries understand that there was not much standardized population record-keeping; such as births, deaths, names of inhabitants, and etc. Whatever records did exist were usually destroyed during the many wars they fought against each other and together against foreign invaders. In addition, the remaining data on the Macedonians were manipulated by Greece, Bulgaria and Serbia through changing their last names, names of villages and cities, practice of customs, and other defining characteristic of the Macedonia ethnicity. Therefore, in light of these reasons, the US immigration records speak much louder when it comes to the true reality of the Macedonian nationality. For instance, when we examine the first and last names of the Macedonian immigrants, it is quite noticeable that they are typically Macedonian of Christian and Slavic background, such as : Petre Boris, Anta Bozin, Mire Arsa, Stanko Avram, Stojan Coteff, Milan Dime, Naum Foteff, Vidoja Sinadin, Ilija Mladen, etc. But after World War I, the Macedonian last names somehow changed over night and acquired typical Greek, Serbian, and Bulgarian endings of -os, -ich and -off. It is just another
Balkan twist of the Macedonian ethnic identity.

In conclusion, this snapshot of the early Macedonian immigration is not meant to be proof for the existence of a separate and distinct Macedonian ethnic identity. The centuries-old continuous existence of the Macedonian people on the same territory is a fact requiring no proof. But this data does provide us with information supporting the notion that the Greek claim that the Macedonian nation was invented by Stalin and Tito is a ridiculous one. Therefore, the question which begs to be answered is how do we re-name people who have already named themselves? The Macedonians who sought the refuge under the torch of the welcoming lady spoke clearly and loudly that they are Macedonians. This is just another testament against the Greek’s attempt at a derogatory re-naming of the Macedonian people.

No comments: