June 7, 2016

Early Macedonian Diaspora

The Austrian-Ottoman war achieved its aims in stopping Ottoman expansion into Western Europe but did nothing to alleviate the problem in the Balkans. The Balkan insurgents never received any real help in the form of weapons, forces or food from the Austrians or from the Holy League and were left to fend for themselves. Being concentrated in a small region, mainly inside Macedonia, the war caused much grief for the Macedonian people. The Macedonian people suffered the most not only during their involvement with the Austrians and the uprising but also later. After the conflict was over the Ottoman army and local Muslim authorities took it upon themselves to punish the rebels through revenge killings and abuse. This torment forced many Macedonians to leave their homes and abandon their properties. To make sure they did not come back local authorities made sure their lands were confiscated and awarded to their worst enemies who caused them the greatest suffering.

With the retreat of the Austrian army and the suppression of the Karposh uprising life in Macedonia became even harder for the average Macedonian who saw no end to his or her misery. Although some promised reforms to improve the lives of the Christians were initiated at the central level of the Ottoman state they were never implemented at the local level as local authorities continued to abuse the Christian people. Seeing no end to their misery, refugees from Skopje, Tetovo and Tikvesh in 1689 began to assemble and head north. A Great Migration of Christians organized by the Patriarch of Pech, Arsenije III Charnojevich, began in 1690 and was joined by Macedonians from Pech, Pristina, Vranje, Prizren, Skopje Region, Kumanovo Region, Kratovo Region, Kriva Palanka, Polog, Veles, Shtip, Kochani, Bitola and even Salonika, all moving north to Vojvodina. Although we have no exact figures as to how many people fled at the time, we estimated them to be 30 to 40,000. More recent sources however indicate that the numbers were much larger more like 70-80,000 and perhaps even 100,000. (Vanche Stojchev, "Military History of Macedonia", page 157)

Subsequent to the Great Macedonian Migration, Ottoman authorities brought in Islamized Yuruk Turks, Albanians and other settlers to populate the vacant regions.

This unfortunately was not the first time that Macedonians had to flee north to Austro-Hungary in large numbers to save themselves. The first wave took place in 1391 after the Maritsa defeat when the Ottomans first invaded Macedonia. The devastation, plundering and forced Islamization frightened people into leaving their homes and seeking safety in Serbia and Bosnia. Then as the Ottomans reached Serbia many refugees fled to Austria and Hungary by crossing the Sava and Danube Rivers.

According to Dr. Vanche Stojchev the first people to leave Macedonia were the lower class nobles who, during the southward Serbian expansion, Emperor Dushan had moved from Bosnia, Herzegovina, Lika and Serbia to Macedonia. The next mass migration took place after the Vama battle in 1444 when Polish King Wladyslaw's and Walachian ruler Dracul's forces were decimated by the Ottomans. The devastating defeat of the Christian army frightened many Macedonians, mostly Vlachs, to take their large herds and belongings and migrate to Austria. Another mass migration took place after the failed Skanderbeg Uprising, which lasted from 1443 until 1479. Afraid for their lives, a large number of Skanderbeg Uprising participants from Ohrid, Struga and Debar fled their homes and headed north.

By now many of these Christian Orthodox immigrants had established colonies in Austria and Hungary and began to feel the pressure to accept Catholicism which they naturally resisted. To avoid becoming Catholics many, especially the wealthy, after the uprisings in Macedonia had been suppressed returned to their native lands. The rest asked to be transferred to the Ukraine or to some other Christian Orthodox country that was willing to take them.

The greatest migration of Macedonians to Austria and Hungary by far however was after the suppression of the Karposh Uprising in 1689. The Karposh Uprising was encouraged by the Holy League alliance and prompted by the Austrian army's invasion of Macedonia. Unfortunately when the Holy League's aims were fulfilled the people in the Balkans were abandoned and left on their own to fight a fight they could not possibly win. The Karposh Uprising was not taken well by the Ottomans and was brutally suppressed. Massacres, devastation and terrible repression followed forcing people to re-think whether it was still worth living on their homeland under Ottoman rule or just simply abandoning it. The Macedonians were by far the largest group of people to leave their homes but they were not alone. Serbians, Albanians, Montenegrins and others also joined the exodus. Led by Arsenije III Chamojevich, the patriarch of Pech, many Macedonians and others left their homeland and settled in Vojvodina, Budim and other Regions north of the Ottoman boundaries.

After settling in Vojvodina most of the immigrant population, especially the civilians, became occupied in agriculture, handcrafts and trade. Most of the experienced fighters joined the Austrian army and fought against the Ottomans in the Austrian-Ottoman wars. The more experienced Karposh Uprising veterans even became high-ranking officers. Jovan Monastirli from Bitola, who achieved the rank of colonel, was awarded the title Austrian noblemen with the right to his own family coat of arms. While serving in the Austrian military, Jovan Monastirli was given command of what became known as the "Serbian forces" which consisted mostly of Balkan refugees. Monastirli was later promoted to general and fought alongside the Austrians in the battle of Slankamen in Srem, on August 10, 1691. Commanding a corps of 10,000 soldiers, mostly Macedonians and Serbians, Monastirli under the command of Ludwig of Baden, helped deliver a devastating blow to the Ottoman army commanded by the Grand Vizier Mustafa Pasha Kuprulu. The Ottomans lost 18,000 soldiers and 18 pashas during that battle including Kuprulu Pasha.

Jovan Monastirli was the first Macedonian to become a general in the Austrian army as well as earn the title Serbian sub-duke.

When the many years of hostilities between France and Austria ended and a Peace Treaty between Louis XIV and Leopold I was signed on October 30th, 1697, hope was raised that the Macedonians would be assisted to return to Macedonia. Now that Austria was free from its obligations in the west, it was expected that it would turn its attention to the south and vigorously engage the Ottomans. Unfortunately on January 26th, 1699 the Macedonian people's hopes were dashed when Austria signed the Karlowitz Peace Treaty with the Ottomans officially ending the Austrian-Ottoman wars and establishing the Rivers Sava, Danube, Tisa and Morish as permanent borders between the two empires.

With the signing of this treaty so ended the last opportunity for the Macedonian population living in Austria and Hungary to return to Macedonia.

No sooner was it was decided that the Balkan people would remain in Austria and Hungary than an "Illyrian Office" was established to aid the immigrants. At that time (18th century) all Slavic speaking nations were referred to as "Illyrians" by the Austrians.

After the Orthodox Christians established themselves in Austria, the Catholic clergy initiated actions to have them converted to Catholics. This however was adamantly opposed by Arsenije III Chamojevich and Jovan Monastirli of Bitola. On October 23rd, 1705 Charnojevich sent a desperate letter to the Russian court, in which he described the difficult situation. Unfortunately both Charnojevich and Monastirli died before any action could be taken. Charnojevich died in 1706 followed by Monastirli in 1707. This was a tragic loss for the Orthodox Christians in Austria not only because they lost their leaders and protectors but also because their religious rights, property, and right to self management were about to be denied.

On February 25th, 1711 Russia declared war on the Ottoman Empire. On March 3rd, 1711 Peter the Great issued a Manifesto appealing to all Balkan Christians in Serbia, Bosnia, Macedonia, Bulgaria, etc. to organize uprisings and join the Russian forces which by now were on their way to the Balkans. Unfortunately with the exception of the Montenegrins no other nation had the energy to yet again raise more rebellions.

Upon finding this out, the immigrant Orthodox Christians now living in Austria and Hungary managed to raise about 20,000 troops and were ready to march on the Balkans alongside the Russians. Unfortunately the Austrian army discovered their plans and stopped them before they left.

Discontent with their lives in Austria and Hungary, the Orthodox Christians looked for ways to escape their Catholic tormentors. Their prayers were answered after the Russian Empress Elisaveta Petrovna (1741-1761), daughter of Peter the Great, ascended the Russian throne. Elisaveta Petrovna made an appeal to the Austrian authorities to let the Orthodox immigrants go to Russia where she was prepared to allow them to practice their Orthodox religion.

Elisaveta Petrovna was motivated to give the Orthodox Christians a safe haven when she discovered that the Orthodox Christians lost their right to self management and were being forced to convert to Catholicism. This was particularly brutal for the Macedonian officers in the Austrian army who were expected to become Catholics if they wanted to keep their ranks and jobs. Those who had purchased properties were also expected to convert to Catholicism or their properties would be confiscated. Rather than becoming Catholics many decided to leave Austria and Hungary and make Russia their new home.

Another mass migration of Macedonians took place between the years 1751 and 1753 this time from Austria and Hungary to Russia. Here is a typical story of one man's journey that could apply to every Macedonian immigrant who ventured into Austria and Hungary. His name is Ivan Horvat, a Vlach from Macedonia. His father's name was Samoil. Samoil came to Austria from the village Horvat, located in Dolna Prespa Region, later renamed Horvati then Rvati. Today the Village is called Arvati. Samoil fought in the Karposh Uprising and after its suppression fled to Austria where he became Lieutenant Colonel in the Austrian army. Ivan was born in Petrovaradin and as he advanced through the army ranks he achieved the rank Major in an infantry regiment.

In 1750 Ivan Horvat contacted Mihail Petrovich Bestuzhev, the Russian Ambassador to Austria, and requested his permission to migrate to Russia. Bestuzhev accepted his request but asked him to wait a while until his request was approved by the Russian Government. To Horvat's surprise the Russian Government not only approved his immigration but offered him and his family citizenship and a job in the Russian army. In fact all the families of the officers who served in the Austrian military were granted citizenship and all officers were given jobs in the Russian army. (Vanche Stojchev, "Military History of Macedonia", page 160)

While waiting for a response from St. Petersburg, Ivan Horvat, along with 29 other military officers submitted their resignation to the Court Council of Austria so that they could be released from the Austrian military. Their resignations were immediately forwarded to Maria Theresa, the Austrian Empress who at the time was on friendly terms with the Russian Empress. Maria Theresa discharged them and freed them from their obligations.

On July 13th, 1751 Ambasador Bestuzhev received confirmation from Empress Elisaveta Petrovna that Horvat and the other officers were given permission to leave for Russia and that jobs would be made available for them in the Russian military. Horvat would be promoted to General and the other officers would be promoted to higher ranks than those they had had in the Austrian army. Bestuzhev, his secretary Chemyev, Horvat and brothers Nikola, Todor and Jovan Chorbe from Ohrid organized the migration. (Vanche Stojchev, "Military History of Macedonia", page 161)

Led by Ivan Horvat, a convoy of officer,s their families and others left Austria and arrived in Kiev on October 11th, 1751. On December 24th, 1751 Horvat was invited to St. Petersburg to see Empress Petrovna, attend a Senate session and meet with the Military Board to discuss a project to bring all the Orthodox people from Austria to Russia.

An agreement was made and on December 25th a resolution was signed by the Empress to follow-up on the plans. Among other things, the resolution contained 29 items concerning the immigrants' arrival and settlement on Russian territory. Among the items included were directives to settle the immigrants on fertile land near the Dnieper River close to the Ottoman border. The territory which they would occupy would be called Novaja Serbia (New Serbia). All expenses incurred during the settlement were to be reimbursed from the army budget. No other ethnic group would be settled in the same region other than the immigrants from Serbia, Macedonia and Bulgaria.

On top of that the resolution also called for four regular regiments to be formed from the immigrants; two cavalry and two infantry. The cavalry regiment was to be composed of 4,000 members and the infantry regiment was to be composed of 1,000 grenadiers. All officers of all ranks who would be in command were to be paid the same salaries as the Russian army officers of the same rank. If at all possible regiments would be organized by ethnicity each consisting of twenty companies. Infantry and cavalry regiments were to be issued free armaments and discipline was to be regulated in accordance with Russian army regulation. All regiments were to be placed under the Russian Supreme Command.

On January 29th, 1752 the Russian Senate issued an order for Major General Galebov to assist Horvat in the settlement of the immigrants and in the creation of the said regiments.

Another immigrant who followed in Ivan Horvat's footsteps was Major Jovan Shevich who, along with 300 border-men and their families, left Hungary and arrived in the Ukraine in 1752. Shevich too was promoted to the rank of general in command of a regiment which included 74 Macedonians. According to the regiment list the 74 declared themselves members of the "Macedonian nation".

In addition to the Macedonians that arrived with Ivan Horvat's and Jovan Shevich's groups, there were also Macedonians in Ivan "the Albanian's" and Rajko Preradovich's groups who also landed in Novaja Serbia around the same time.

As the immigrant population kept growing and concentrating in that region, it sought to create an autonomous Novaja Serbia. Ivan Horvat took the initiative to the Holy Synod in 1753 but the idea was rejected. Subsequently, with Horvat's help, 17 churches were built in the region and priests were brought from Macedonia, mainly from Sveta Gora, to serve in those churches.

Horvat's initiatives so impressed the Empress that she allowed him, by decree, to personally promote officers up to the rank of Colonel.

The migration of Macedonians to the Ukraine from the Balkans, Austria, Hungary, Moldavia and other places continued for generations.

In 1751, at the beginning of the Balkan peoples' migration, four regiments were created strictly made up of immigrants; two were cavalry and the other two infantry. The regiments were divided into two groups, the maneuver or mobile regiments and the garrison or stationary regiments. While the garrison regiments consisted mainly of married men with families, the maneuver regiments consisted mostly of single men and were used for special military actions and wars outside of Russian territories.

On May 10th, 1759 Empress Elisaveta Petrovna issued orders to create two new maneuver cavalry regiments; one Macedonian and one Bulgarian. Major General Ivan Horvat was given the task of creating the Macedonian Regiment which consisted mostly of Macedonians with a small number of other people from the Balkans. Major Simeon Pishchevich was appointed in charge of the regiment while Aleksandar Dimitriev was given command of it. The regiment was given an official name "Macedonian Hussar Polevii Polk", that is "Macedonian Cavalry Maneuver Regiment". This regiment was created for the purpose of fighting wars outside of Russian territories. By Senate decision, the Macedonian Regiment was ordered to fight in Prussia, Poland and in the Ottoman Empire against Tatars, Cherkezes, Cossacks and others.

The organization and formation of the Macedonian Regiment was similar to the other cavalry regiments, consisting of 4,000 soldiers divided into 20 companies each with about 200 soldiers. It is interesting to note that on the personnel list under the column "nationality" the words "Macedonian" appeared with each individual's name, rank and date of arrival.

There was however one difference between the Macedonian and other regiments. The Macedonian regiment had its own seal, coat of arms and flag. Also, considering most members of that regiment were once Austrian officers and soldiers, they were allowed to use their original weapons and uniforms which they brought with them after leaving Austria. This however gradually changed and the regiment acquired new weapons, uniforms and coats of arms. In the beginning the Macedonian Regiment's coat of arms was a little lion without a crown, borrowed from the Stematography of Hristifor Zhefarovich. Then in 1776 the Macedonian coat of arms was changed and had a shield in French form. The base was red with various oriental ornaments, and the emblem was a Tatar shield with two crossed spears with golden picks. (Vanche Stojchev, "Military History of Macedonia", page 162)

Soldiers and officers were allowed to wear whatever they wanted but on May 10th, 1763 the Russian Supreme Command issued a General Order to all cavalry regiments to upgrade their weapons and dress. Every soldier and officer was obliged to possess a mantle, a dolman, boots, a belt, a bag, a saddle, a saber, a carbine, a pistol etc. On October 3rd, 1775 another order was issued requiring all cavalry regiments to wear uniforms. The Macedonian Regiment was issued yellow jackets and trousers, ornamented with black braid and a red cap. On December 24th, 1776 a new order was issued with a more precise description of the uniform. According to that order the Macedonian Regiment was issued yellow jackets and trousers with red edges, ornamented with black braids. The Macedonian Regiment wore this uniform until it was disbanded. Each regiment also had its own bugle and a drummer.

Like all good things that come to an end, so did the immigrant colonies in Russia when Russian authorities decided to disband them and integrate them into Russian society. By Decree from the Empress Catherine II, on June 28th, 1783, the immigrant regiments were disbanded and new ones created. The regiment to which the Macedonians belonged was combined with the Dalmatian regiment and named the Alexandrian Regiment. In spite of the name change, the Macedonian people, unofficially of course, continued to call their regiment by its old name until it became fully integrated and began to lose its Macedonian identity.

Prior to being integrated the Macedonian regiment proved itself by demonstrating courage and success in battle for which it received various commendations from Empress Elisaveta Petrovna, Empress Catherine II and from the Russian Supreme Command.

During their participation in the Russian military a large number of Macedonian officers were promoted to the ranks of general. The highest known rank awarded to Macedonians was that of Major General proudly earned by Ivan Horvat and Todor Chorbe. Despite of all his merits however, Ivan Horvat was charged with severe obstinacy and sentenced to 20 years imprisonment in Siberia where he died in 1780.

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