Bogomilism in Macedonia
It is said that at the dawn of medieval Macedonian history two great men arose: Clement of Ohrid and the priest Bogomil. The first one was an educator and writer, whose distinguished personality and work are the pride both of Macedonians and of all Slavs: the second was an idealist, whose heretical theory became a rallying cry for the oppressed throughout Europe in the Middle Ages.
According to its context Bogomilism is a religious heresy, but its content it is a social movement conditioned by the economic and political circumstances in the country where it emerged. It is beyond doubt that Bogomilism emerged in Macedonia. At that time a larger part of Macedonia was under Bulgarian authority. The aim of the conquerors was clear: to incorporate Macedonia within the framework of the military and administrative regime of the Bulgaria state in a speedy and painless way, thus breaking up the clan-tribal system of the Macedonian principalities. Bulgarian rulers achieved their aim, the tribal rule of the Macedonian Slavs weakened, and new feudal relations gained ground. The independent traditions of the Macedonian Slavs gave way to feudal exploitation. Wars became frequent, taxes higher, robberies and violence common, and natural disasters an additional punishment for the common people. Villages grew poorer: peasants lost their properties and means of production. Many of them were taken as prisoners, and a majority of them became serfs, slaves to the land they cultivated, owing to actions by King Symeon. Symeon began to replace tribal ownership of land with feudal ownership, whereby the peasant was fully dependent on the feudal lord. "In order to satisfy his soldiers and officers, Symeon had to rob the defeated. And as the Macedonian Slavs were those who were defeated and conquered, he robbed their properties." Romanus I Lecapenus informed King Symeon in a letter that 20,000 people from Macedonia had escaped to Byzantium; they had fled "because of the violence and intent of the Bulgarian armies." Some historians argue that the visit of Clement of Ohrid to the Bulgarian capital and his resignation of the office of bishop a few months before his death was a response to the violence and devastation wrought by the conquerors on the territory of the Bishopric of Velika.
If some clergy in the Bulgarian Empire were privileged, not all of them enjoyed wealth and favor -the lower clergy drawn from the peasantry, serving as village and town priests, received low wages and were burdened by taxes and dues. Under such living conditions, aggravated further when King Petar increased the exploitation in order to sustain his vast military, government and church apparatus, indignation and dissatisfaction were inevitable and had an anti-church and anti-feudal character.
This was the reasons why the restless masses accepted "the newly-emerged heresy", as Kosma would say, and the priest Bogomil as founder of the movement. Dragan Tashkovski goes a step further: he claims that Bogomil was a disciple of Clement, accepting the Glagolitic as Clement of Ohrid did. He taught the people "not to submit themselves to the boyars and to have in mind that those who serve the king are repulsive to God, and to order every servant not to work for his master." But Aleksandar Matkovski argues that there is no proof that Bogomil existed at all. He bases his statement on the fact that Ephymius and Anna Comnena, who wrote about the Bogomils, give no mention of the priest, instead naming Churilo and the physician Vasilij as the founders of the sect. Matkovski points out that the Slavonic word bogomil simply means "dear to God", and does not refer to its founder.
Bogomil cosmology and mythology about the creation and destruction of the world possessed logic in a popular form. It could be understood by the masses of the Middle Ages, and they could thus be encouraged to take an active part in resolving the social conflicts imposed by feudalism. The Bogomils taught that there are two gods: a god of good and a god of evil. The god of evil created the material world and humanity, while the god of good created the human soul. The Bogomils denied all prayers except "Our Father, the Lord" and did not respect the cross, icons or churches. They prayed at home and made mutual confessions, denying bishops' authority over believers. They denied the authority the Old Testament and recognized the New Testament only. Believers were encouraged to rebellion and resistance to authorities, with poverty a virtue and material wealth-and those who possessed it-preached as an evil.
The appearance of the Bogomil dualist heresy was an expression of indignation against the hierarchy of a Christian church which used the concept of God as a tool to keep the believers obedient. It was also an expression of indignation against state authority, which relied on the Christian church to support its rule. Bogomilism sought an answer to the eternal question, "Why is it that to some people God gives many goods and few evils, whereas to others he gives many evils and little good?" The Bogomil movement in Macedonia was directed fully against the Byzantine and Bulgarian rulers, against local feudal masters and against a church which, as Presbyter Kosma said, was completely corrupt.
The anti-feudal essence of Bogomilism is reflected in its social and political viewpoints and in the framework of its mystic and religious conceptions. By preaching equality in poverty, a modest, simple life and disobedience to authorities, Bogomilism contained a strong anti-feudal note and instigated the people to rebellion and indignation.
A more detailed analysis of the character of Bogomilism leads to the significant conclusion that, in turning against the king and the boyars, against the ruling nomenclature which first and foremost consisted of Bulgarians, it had a liberating character for the Macedonian Slavs. N.P. Blagoev notes that Macedonia was the center of opposition against King Petar, both because he was an usurper but also because Bogomilism at that time was a strong, militant movement. The churches of Draguvit and Melnik were representative of the extreme opposition, unlike the Bulgarian Bogomilian church which tended to be more peaceful and moderate. That Bogomilism had distinct features of a liberation movement is supported by the fact that the komitopulis David, Moysey, Aran and Samuil, sons of the Komitadji Nikola, accepted Bogomilism and began a rebellion in 869 resulting in breaking Macedonia away from the Bulgarian Empire, establishing the first Slavic-Macedonian state.
After the victory of the komitopulis and the establishment of a Macedonian kingdom, the Bogomils ceased to verbally attack the upper classes-the king, royal officials and high clergy-and allied with them, although Samuil's state was as feudal as those of Boris and Petar. There is a simple explanation for the sympathy of Tsar Samuil for the Bogomils and their participation in his rebellion: the Bogomils were the only organized anti-Byzantine party in Macedonia with a clear Slavic orientation. It is interesting that the rebellion of the Macedonian Slavs broke out in the region where Bogomilism was strongest, in the territory defined by the triangle of the Vardar River, Ohrid and Mt. Shar. The measures taken by Byzantium and Bulgaria against this "evil" were severe. Patriarch of Constantinople Theophylast advised Tsar Petar: "Those who will remain in evil, sick from unrepentance, will be cut out of God's church as rotten and malignant parts and will be delivered for eternal damnation... The social laws of Christianity prescribe death for them, especially when it is apparent that the evil drags even deeper, progresses and kills many people." Nevertheless, Bogomilism spread first throughout Bulgaria and Bosnia, then to Italy and southern France; a movement which was to influence the course of history.
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