THE VILLAGE OF ZRNOVO

The former village, now a small town called Zrnovo is situated in the Zrnovo valley, in the eastern part of Aegean Macedonia. The Zrnovo valley is to be found in a wonderful geographic location and it represents a bridge between the Aegean Sea in the south (approx. 50 - 60 km to the south), and the beautiful mountain of Pirin on the north. The river flowing in this region is called the Zrnovo river, which in the southern part of the valley joins together with the rivers named Peshternik and the Dolnobrod river.

From a historical point of view, Zrnovo shares the fate of Macedonia. It was often preyed upon by various invaders, but it also gave birth to many freedom fighters and revolutionaries. The Zrnovo valley became part of the Macedonian state in the time of the rule of the Macedonian king Philip II in the IV-th century BC. In the II-nd century BC this region as well as the rest of Macedonia fell under the authority of the Roman Empire and remained its part until 335 AD, when after the division of the Roman Empire, Zrnovo remains under the rule of Byzantium. In the IX-th century a part of Macedonia including Zrnovo fell under the rule of the Bulgarian state. After the collapse of the first Bulgarian kingdom, this region became once more part of the Byzantine Empire, after which Byzantine rule consolidated. This part of Macedonia was never incorporated in the state of Tsar Samuel, who despite his efforts, never succeeded to expand further than the city of Ser. We must point out the penetration in this region, by the Serbian Tsar Dusan which happened in around 1345. In 1371 Zrnovo together with whole of the rest of Macedonia fell under the rule of the Ottoman Turks. For the first time in the history of the Greek state, Zrnovo became its part in 1913, only after the Balkan Wars and the Treaty of Bucharest. This situation prevails to this day despite the short occupations by Bulgaria in the time of the First and the Second World War.

All these historical events in and around this region generated great activity and involvement of the population in the Macedonian       revolutionary movements. The population from this region took part in the Kresna Uprising, where one of its leaders was Stojan Karastoilov, a native of the Zrnovo region. In addition to that Zrnovo also gave many fighters in the Uprising in Razlovci. After the foundation of IMRO (Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization),      Zrnovo was organised as part of the revolutionary district with its center in Ser, which was considered as one of the more active ones. It has been recorded that one of the famous revolutionary leaders who acted in this region was Atanas Teshovski. It is interesting to note that during the Drama Uprising in 1941 organized by the communist party of Greece in which Macedonians participated, upon the liberation of the city Prosechen, a public speech in the Macedonian language was held. The Macedonians from this region also took part in the Greek Civil War. For example a participant in the armed forces of DAG (Democratic Army of Greece) from Zrnovo was Gjorgji Hadzipetrov.

From everything said before the land in and around Zrnovo gave significant figures and contributed to the historical events in Macedonia, despite the relatively small number of its population. According to the Ottoman census from the XV-th century Zrnovo had 171 ‘infidel families’ and only one Muslim family.

As a result of the process of converting to Islam in the first half of the XIX-th century, in Zrnovo there were 240 Christian and 40 Muslim families. According to the first censuses of the new Greek government established in 1913, Zrnovo had about 2000 residents. Already in 1940 the population increased to around 3300, but this is not due to natural population growth but as a result of massive colonization by Greek refugees from various coastal parts of Turkey. However after World War II the number of people slides down to about 2700. This reduction was directly damaging the Macedonian element of the population, which due to historical events and unbearable life, left its homeland and sought refuge across the border into Bulgaria or in the Republic of Macedonia as part of the Yugoslav federation. All these historical disadvantages that have occurred in this part of Macedonia contributed Zrnovo to have only a tiny indigenous Macedonian population today. The descendants of the refugees from this region can be found throughout the eastern part of the Republic of Macedonia, mainly in Shtip and the vicinity of Sveti Nikole, as well as across Bulgaria, mostly in Sofia, Blagoevgrad, Varna, etc… Today the official name of Zrnovo is Kato Nevrokopion. This is due to the state policy of Greece for changing all the toponyms in the territories it had occupied in 1913, regulated under the Law on renaming villages, cities and small towns, brought into force in September 1926. The purpose of this Act is clear and consisted of Greek assimilation of the newly occupied territories. This Policy of the Greek state did not omit neither Zrnovo nor its surroundings. From then on, the new name of Zrnovo was Kato Nevrokopion. He who understands Greek, will realize that “Kato” means "lower", and therefore the new name for Zrnovo means “Lower Nevrokop”. “Nevrokop", as a consequence, derives from the location of Zrnovo in regards to the city of Nevrokop, located north of it. Ironically, such a change of the name is in opposition to the objectives set forth by the Law for the renaming of toponyms. Namely, the city of Nevrokop (Goce Delcev) is located in the Pirin part of Macedonia, which is today part of the Republic of Bulgaria. Thus, precisely this renaming of Zrnovo instead of achieving Greek assimilation and erasing the past, in fact only confirmed the historic fact of the natural linking and the unity of the territory of Macedonia. Just for clarification, with the drawing of the borders in 1913, Zrnovo remained in Greece, and Nevrokop to which city it always naturally gravitated remained in Bulgaria. Because of this the whole region around the Zrnovo valley had to orient itself towards the new administrative center in the city of Drama. In this way, the naming of Zrnovo as “Lower” in regards to the “Upper” Nevrokop which remained on the other side of the border, only confirmed the irrationality of the state policy of Greece, which hoped that with the changing of the toponyms it will be able to alter the facts and change the historical reality. Unfortunately even now, after 85 years, this same policy is applied by Greece in its foreign policy towards its northern neighbor, the Republic of Macedonia.

PhD.  Dejan Marolov (Македонска Ризница, број 6)

(Dedicated to my grandparents, Mary and Dimitar Marolovi born in Zrnovo)

TRANSLATED BY  Martin Stefanovski

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