The Macedonian Language is a Reality

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To the Delegation of the European Union in the Republic of Macedonia

To the Diplomatic Representatives of the European Union’s Member States in the  Republic of Macedonia

 

Honorable Ladies and Gentlemen,

Your Excellencies,

We, a group of Macedonian intellectuals, have decided to publicly protest the demands and the ultimatums included in the Declaration of the Parliament of Republic of Bulgaria, which were qualified as “concerning and problematic” even by many Bulgarian intellectuals.

The following is what disconcert us the most in this Declaration – and also contradicts the EU’s own standards and norms:

1.      The attempt to problematize the Macedonian language, by stating:”… the term ‘Macedonian language’ should not appear anywhere in the EU documents; if unavoidable, the term ‘the official language of the Republic of North Macedonia’ should be used.”  Further on, the Declaration states that “…should an absolute necessity of using the term ‘Macedonian language’ in EU documents and decisions arise, an asterisk should point to a footnote specifying that the use of the term is in accordance with the Constitution of the Republic of North Macedonia (…) and elucidating that the lingual form declared as a constitutional language of Republic of North Macedonia is related to the evolution of the Bulgarian language and its dialects by the codification in 1944.”

2.      “(…) to renounce the support or demand for recognition of the Macedonian minority in the Republic of Bulgaria”; and

3.      “Systematic removal of the qualifier ‘Bulgarian fascist occupier’ from all monuments and memorial plaques”.

Regarding the first item, we underscore the fact that the Macedonian language is a historic reality, an official language of this country, spoken by over three million people - citizens of our country, of the neighboring countries and members of the diaspora throughout the European, American, and the Australian continents. It is absolutely and ultimately humiliating to us, the Macedonians, to conceal with a syntagma (‘official language of the Republic of North Macedonia’), a language that has an abundant written tradition as the Macedonian language does, instead of honoring it with its genuine name.

We consider the proposal of an EU Member State, the Republic of Bulgaria, as indecent, offensive, contrary to all international legal standards relevant to this issue and, as most important, contradictory to the European Union’s founding values and law. Our country and our language are not in the process of forming, they both have a long tradition.

The Macedonian language is described as a Slavic language genealogically, and a Balkan language typologically. From this aspect, it is the “most Balkan” one in this lingual union. Due to the historical events and the division of the region of Macedonia into three parts after the Balkan Wars in 1913, the Macedonians only completed the codification and the standardization of their language after the Second World War.

The Slavic studies generally accept the Macedonian theory (of Vatroslav Oblak and Vatroslav Jagic) about the basis of the proto-Slavic language, that is the language on which the brothers Cyril and Methodius translated the Greek religious books, in order to facilitate the spread of Christianity among the Slavic people. According to this theory, the first Slavic written literary language is based on the Macedonian dialect from the surroundings of Thessalonica.

Over the centuries, Macedonia is a habitat to a fertile scriptural activity, carried through by two medieval scribing schools which the science recognizes as the Ohrid and the Kratovo-Lesnovo literary schools. The scriptural activities virtually ceased with Macedonia falling under the Ottoman authority, however, the process was never completely abandoned. The scriptures created in the 15th and 16th century (Tikvesh Collection, the Krnin Damaskin[1]) offer evidence and correspond numerous colloquial language traits, used to the end of bringing the texts with religious content closer to the ordinary people. The effort, on its part, also distinguishes these texts from the medieval pattern designed by the culture activists as St. Cyril, St. Methodius, St. Clement and St. Naum as the central figures of our early medieval era.

While 19th century Europe witnesses the flourishing of romanticism, rationalism and enlightenment it had also appeared in Macedonia, featured in the works of Kiril Pejcinovic and Joakim Krcovski. The second half of the 19th century, a period of the Renaissance and national awakening, introduced significant literary names, as Konstantin and Dimitar Miladinov, Rajko Zinzifov, Grigor Prlicev, Gjorgjija Pulevski, and others. Our eastern neighbor is seeking to seize the entire 19th century by claiming that all our activists from the time were, in fact, Bulgarians. The truth is that, deprived of statehood and standardized language, common Macedonians exhibited their identity through the church. Since the Ohrid Archiepiscopacy was abolished by the end of the 18th century, the Macedonians opted either for the Bulgarian Exarchate or the Greek Patriarchy.

At the beginning of the 20th century, Of the Macedonian Matters, a very significant booklet by Krste Misirkov was published, explicating the distinctiveness of the Macedonian people and the Macedonian language. Half a century later, Misirkov’s idea of the Macedonian literary language finally materialized: the dialects of the ethnic Central Macedonia, following the line Veles – Prilep – Bitola – Ohrid, were used as a basis for the standardization.

Today, the Macedonian language is taught at all levels of the Macedonian educational system, and it is applied in all areas of the contemporary cultural life. The Macedonian language has already developed all functional styles. It is inscribed in the UN subcommittee UNGEGN’s Register of Countries and Languages and the Latin transcription of the Macedonian Cyrillic alphabet was adopted by a resolution at the Third UNGEGN Conference in Athens in 1977. In 1992, at a congress in Rio de Janeiro, the International PEN Center adopted a special resolution by which it recognizes the Macedonian language, literature, culture, and nation. The Macedonian language is represented in the European Linguistic Atlas (ALE), established under UNESCO patronage. The Macedonian dialects are also inscribed in the Pan-Slavic Linguistic Atlas (OLA), which is one of the largest international projects by the Slavic Linguistic Council, under the auspices of the International Committee of Slavists. The project was carried out by the science academies of all Slavic countries – OLA, which represents 13 national academies of science and/or associated institutions. The Macedonian language is also used by the International Standardization Organization (ISO) and on Google, which introduced the language to its translation tool ten years ago. An enormous volume of artistic and scientific literature is written in Macedonian language.

The notions Macedonian and Macedonian language are deeply engraved in the minds of all people living in our country. The erasing of these basic attributes of our identity means erasing the collective memory, embodied in our historical, folkloric, and cultural traditions.

Regarding the second item, “… renouncing the support or demand for recognition of the Macedonian minority in the Republic of Bulgaria”: Is there really a need to tell you what does this mean? Do you know of any European state without minorities, including ethnic and linguistic minorities? Doesn’t the Bulgarian request violate basic international and European legal standards regarding citizens’ and human rights to self-identification and self-determination?

 We do expect that the EU institutions, as well as EU’s Member States, to react principally to the overt ethnic chauvinism of the Bulgarian Parliament, of course, in the name of the Euro-integration and the good neighborly relations, and by following the best experiences of the Union’s previous enlargements. Let us remind you that with respect to the Euro-integration processes of our own country, the EU constantly reiterates the significance of the minorities and their rights. By way of the Framework Agreement of 2001, we were obliged to implement solutions that exceed the international standards for minorities’ rights by far and large, as opposed to the accession of the Republic of Bulgaria to the EU without any such conditioning on minorities, including the Macedonian one. Bulgaria was tolerated even when the International Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg ruled that the country violates the rights of the Macedonian minority with the case of OMO Ilinden.

Regarding the third item, that is the systematic removal of the qualifier “Bulgarian fascist occupier” from all monuments and memorial plaques, we strongly believe that conditioning the EU membership by falsifying notorious and indisputable historical facts of our common European history from the period of WWII, and replacing it with some politically constructed “common history until 1944” is unprecedented in the entire process of European integration! The illegitimate insistence to accept such false reinterpretation of the historical past and the cultural heritage of the nation, from the medieval era up to date, goes as far as to impose, “replacement of the informative texts and other markings, including the historical and cultural monuments”, also including adjustments of the “official statements and comments” by the political representatives, by all Macedonian state institutions, and by the media financed by the state. This all represents a vulgar abuse of the bilateral agreement, and of the process of the European integration of our country, something that is extremely unacceptable for the 21st century Europe.

There are virtually no European nations that did not experience dark periods in their histories. However, civilized Europe did not erase them, did not falsify them, and did not conceal them; on the contrary, it had recognized them, it had asked for forgiveness, and now they serve as historical lessons. Contrary to the current scandalous agenda, we do expect the Republic of Bulgaria to follow the bright example of the other EU Member States, and to express her historical apology for this hard and tragic period of our common European history. The neighboring Republic of Bulgaria owes an apology to the Macedonians and to the Macedonian Jews for the crimes committed during the Bulgarian occupation of Macedonia in the Second World War.

Considering the afore stated, we ask you to convey our positions and strong protest to Brussels, and to the governments of the Member States that you represent in our country. These are the positions of the  majority of Macedonians, home and abroad, and by the citizens of our country from all the other ethnic groups. At this occasion, we also plead, not only to you, but to all the European diplomats in the country, to the politicians in the EU institutions, and in the EU Member States, to strongly condemn such provocations and conditioning by an EU Member State. Bilateral agreements and decrees, absent mutual respect, do not suffice for good neighborly relations and friendship. The EU Member States should support their neighbors on their European path, not pressuring and conditioning them in a manner that is unprecedented in the history of the EU Enlargement, and thoroughly contradicting the EU’ s foundational values and EU law.

              

                                                                                          Yours Sincerely,

Аcademician Prof. Dr. Katica Kulavkova,  Macedonian Academy of Science and Arts (MANU);

Аcademician Prof. Dr.  Vitomir Mitevski, MANU;

Аcademician Prof. Dr. Georgi Pop-Atanasov,  MANU;

Аcademician Dr. Zuzana Topolinjska, MANU;

Аcademician Dr. Zhivko Popov, MANU;

Prof. Dr.  Marjan Markovikj, MANU;

Prof. Dr. Elka Jacheva – Ulchar,  Institute for the Macedonian Language “Krste Misirkov” – Skopje;

Prof. Dr. Aleksandra Gjurkova,  Institute for the Macedonian Language “Krste Misirkov” – Skopje;

Prof. Dr. Simona Gruevska – Madzoska, Institute for the Macedonian Language “Krste Misirkov” – Skopje;

Prof. Dr. Velika Stojkova Serafimovska, Institute for Folklore “Marko Cepenkov” – Skopje;

Prof. Dr.  Gordana Siljanovska – Davkova,  Faculty of Law “Iustinianus Primus”, UKIM, Skopje;

Prof. Dr.  Karolina Ristova – Aasterud, Faculty of Law “Iustinianus Primus”, UKIM, Skopje;

Prof. Dr.  Katerina Zdravkova, Faculty of Computer Science and Engineering, UKIM, Skopje;

Aldo Kliman, Writer;

Prof. Dr. Maja Angelovska – Panova, Institute for National History – Skopje;

Prof. Dr. Mitko Panov, Institute for National History – Skopje;

Prof. Dr. Katerina Todoroska, Institute for National History – Skopje;

Zhivko Grozdanoski, writer

Frosina Parmakovska, writer

Dr. Emil Niami, Russian center, UKIM, Skopje;

Petar Andonovski, Writer;

Ivana Nasteski, M.A., An Art Teacher;

Prof. Darija Andovska, M.A., Composer, Faculty of Music Art, UKIM, Skopje;

Nikola Pijanmanov,  An Artist;

Boban Karapejovski, M.A, Faculty of Philology, UKIM, Skopje;

Ljupcho Todorovski – Upa, An Actor;

Prof. Dr. Ganka Cvetanova, Institute for Sociological, Political and Juridical Research, UKIM, Skopje;

Prof.Dr. Marijana Markovikj, Institute for Sociological, Political and Juridical Research, UKIM, Skopje;

Prof. Dr. Eleonora Serafimovska, Institute for Sociological, Political and Juridical Research, UKIM, Skopje;

Prof. Dr. Ilija Velev, Institute for Macedonian Literature – Skopje;

Prof. Dr. Slavica Veleva, Faculty of Philology, UKIM, Skopje;

Prof. Dr. Valentina Mironska, Institute for Macedonian Literature – Skopje;



[1] In Orthodox scriptures, “damaskin” is a specific type of religious text written in colloquial language.