January 15, 2019

“If the Macedonians had divisions, the Greeks would not be in Macedonia”

There was a “not so well” known hidden agenda in the Greek Civil War (1945–1949), a conflict between the Right and the Left, where Greeks deliberately aimed to accelerate the Hellenization process of Greek occupied Macedonia. A Hellenization process which began in 1923 with the Lausanne declaration designed to change the national composition of Macedonia by ethnically cleansing the Macedonians.

The Hellenization process began with the eviction of 70-80 thousand Christian Macedonians of whom 30 thousand were evicted to Bulgaria and the rest to Turkey. That does not include the 510 thousand Muslims who were also evicted to Turkey.

The plan of the then Monarchofascist Greek government (that is what it was called then) during the Greek Civil War was to complete the Hellenization process and with that to finally close the Macedonian question for Northern Greece. This Greece planned to do with a monstrous anti-Macedonian cleansing act - emptying that part of Greece of its Macedonians.

Here are a couple of quotes from Greek Resistance movement officers who not only were aware of the existence of the Macedonians but were afraid of them:

“Why were there entire battalions formed in Voden and Lerin Region when only the formation of companies were ordered?” bitterly asks Leonidas Stringos.

“What would have been the damage if divisions were formed?” answers Renos Mihaelas, with another question.

“You are indeed naïve! If the Macedonians had divisions we the Greeks would not be found in Macedonia”, answers Leonidas.

The Cairo branch of the Special Operations Executive SOE also had observers in Greek occupied Macedonia who were monitoring and reporting on the war situation during and subsequent to the German, Italian and Bulgarian occupation of the region.

Sixty-four years ago (March-October 1944) Captain P. H. Evans, member of the British War Mission, stayed in Greek occupied Macedonia with the National Liberation Army of Greece for more that seven months and made and recorded several observations.

Evans travelled the wider part of Lerin Region, particularly the Prespa-Kostur-Vicho-Lerin-Sorovich corridor and wrote about the various movements. These reports now serve as source documents which point to certain policies not only of Great Britain’s politics in the Balkans but also of the Greek aims towards the Macedonians. In that context, B. Barker has interpreted some of Captain Evans’s reports, specifically the one of December 1st, 1944 and asserts that the Lerin territory is predominantly Slavic, and not Greek. This is part of the territory where the Metaxas dictatorial regime introduced a law to silence the Slavic language.

In another report Evans asserts that all consecutive Greek governments with different political views are in agreement with one thing “how to carefully instigate a lie to tell their own people and the world that no Slav minority exists in their country”.

According to Evans however, when a foreigner visits Lerin Region, the foreigner will conclude that the opposite is true that the Greeks are a minority there. This region is foremost Slavic, and not Greek. The language in the homes and in the rural areas, villages and market is Macedonian Slavic.

In one of the seven of Evans’s chapters he concluded that the residents in that region are not Greek, Bulgarian, Serb or Croat, they are Macedonians. Their national feelings are interwoven and speak of a Macedonia be it in old songs or new ones just composed during the most recent war. Evans points out that the word “Macedonia” occurs regularly in the songs without distinction to region. The Macedonians are sincere and direct about the love for their country, and not with some sort of intellectual enthusiasm for a political idea.

The Greeks on the other hand have a negative attitude towards the Macedonians, which is also present in educated Greeks, and not only towards the Macedonian minority in the Slav Regions but everywhere. Their attitude unfortunately is characteristically foolish, misinformed and brutal to the extent of wretchedness, impossible to establish understanding between two people.

Nova Makedonija

Translated and edited by Risto Stefov


According to historian and author Andrew Rossos who had studied Captain Evans’s reports in detail, Macedonians in Greek occupied Macedonia were mistrustful of strangers and tended to hide their feelings about their ethnicity. Instead of calling themselves Macedonians they used the euphemism “nashi” meanings “ours”.

“Nashizam was evident to Captain P. H. Evans, a British officer with the Special Operations Executive (SOE) who was dropped in wester Aegean Macedonia in September 1943 and spent almost a year there a British liaison officer (BLO) and station commander. He dwelled and moved freely among the Macedonians, "who accepted and trusted him.”

He described them as "temperamental and distrustful creatures." Living under so many masters, they had developed "a perfect duplicity" character and "this makes them difficult to know. ...It is hard to find out what they are thinking." "The ordinary Macedonian villager,” Evans continues, "is curiously neutral, he adopts a protective colouring and, like the chameleon, can change it when necessary." However, he emphasizes:

It is also important to emphasize that the inhabitants, just as they are not Greeks, are also not Bulgarians or Serbs or Croats. They are Macedonians. ...The Greeks always call them Bulgars and damn them accordingly. ...If they were Bulgars, how is it that while they are spread over part of four countries, one of which is Bulgaria, they consider themselves a single entity and for the most part describe themselves as Macedonians? ...

The Macedonians are actuated by strong but mixed feelings of patriotism. .., a thriving and at times fervent local patriotism; and a feeling hard to assess because rarely uttered before a stranger. ..for Macedonia as such, regardless of present frontier-lines, which are looked upon as usurpation...

The same tenacity comes out in Macedonian songs, the traditional ones as well as those which have been made expressly in the present war. It is true that the songs usually mention Macedonia and not one particular place in Macedonia, but the feeling, which runs through them, is a simple and direct love of country, not an intellectual enthusiasm for a political idea. ...Passing through them all is the Macedonian's love of the place he lives in...

Macedonian patriotism is not artificial; it is natural, a spontaneous and deep-rooted feeling which begins in childhood, like everyone else's patriotism. (Rossos, Andrew, “Macedonia and the Macedonians a History”, Stanford, Hoover Institution Press, 2008. Pages 90 and 91).

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