A turning point in the history of the Macedonian Slavs was the development of an alphabet and the appearance of literacy. It was a means for spreading Christianity among them and for the development of the first Slavonic literary language. There are two stages in the literacy of the Macedonian Slavs: the first was reading and fortune-telling by means of lines and stripes, while the second includes the use of Greek and Latin alphabet after Christianization. However, in order that Christianization could gain momentum and penetrate all strata of the population, it was essential that the Gospel be preached in the language of the people who were to be converted to Christianity. Otherwise, it would not have been possible for 54,000 Macedonian Slavs from the Bregalnitsa region to be introduced to Christ's teaching-they would not have converted if Christ's truth had not been explained to them in their own language and in language they understood. In the Ascension of Cyril, popularly called the Short Cyril's Hagiography and considered by a number of scholars to have been written by Clement of Ohrid, it is written: "Then he [Cyril] went to Bregalnitsa and he met unbaptized people, he baptized and introduced them to the Orthodox religion. He wrote books for them in Slavonic. Those who were converted by him to Christ's religion were of the number of 54,000..."
In the Panonia legends in the Cyril's Hagiography it is said that the Moravian prince, Rastislav, addressed Byzantine Emperor Michail III in a letter and asked him: "For our people who had renounced polytheism and accepted Christianity, we have not a teacher who would explain Christ's faith in our language... For that reason, my lord, please send us such a bishop and a teacher." In the fourth chapter of the same legends it is written that at the meeting, Cyril was also present, and when this application was on the agenda the philosopher was addressed by the emperor: "Philosopher, did you hear these words? Except for yourself, there is no other person who can carry out this task. Take these numerous presents and go, and take your brother Methodius the prior with you. You are Thessalonikians, and all the Thessalonikians speak pure Slavonic." Cyril's Hagiography also includes the philosopher's reply: "Although I am tired and ill, I will go there with pleasure, if they have letters for their language."
The Moravians, of course, did not have their own alphabet and Cyril had to undertake its creation. Crnorizec Hrabar (the Black-Coated Monk) writes: "Formerly the Slavs did not have their own alphabet, but counted and told fortunes using lines and stripes, because they were pagans... Then the loving God sent the holy Constantine the Philosopher, called Cyril, who created 38 letters for them, some of them after the example of Greek letters, and some after Slavonic speech... Some people say: 'why had he created 38 letters when one can write using a smaller number?'... Others, on the other hand, say: 'why are the letters Slavonic? They were neither created by God, nor by angels, nor they have existed from the very beginning like the Hebrew, Roman and Greek ones, which originate from ancient times and are accepted by God.' Others also think that God himself had created the letters...What answer is to be given to these irrational people? We will reply according to the holy books: All that comes from God, takes place in a consecutive order, and not at once..."
It is beyond doubt that Cyril and Methodius created their alphabet on the basis of their excellent knowledge of the language of the Macedonian Slavs, who were densely settled around Thessaloniki and in the town itself. It is also indisputable that it was a language understood throughout a large territory inhabited by Slavic tribes. Otherwise, what would be the explanation for the fact that the two brothers translated church literature into the language of the Macedonian Slavs for the inhabitants of relatively distant Moravia? There are many indications that Cyril created an alphabet (most likely the Glagolitic) for the requirements of Christianizing the Slavic pagans inhabiting the area between Vardar and Strymon rivers, the Bregalnitsa region, where his brother Methodius had been administrator before being asked by Michail III to go to Moravia. If this is true, then it is indisputable that the language of the Slavs was at this time general and common. It also means that the brothers, by using the language of the Macedonian Slavs, were the founders of the first literary Slavonic language and the forefathers of the Slavic literature.
By closely examining the historical facts, Blazhe Ristovski comes to the conclusion that the work of the brothers was basically anti-Bulgarian and that their activity had been directed against Bulgarian ambitions. Bulgaria had been a military ally of the former Frankish state and later of the Holy Roman Empire as well, waging war against the Slavs in Moravia. In the name of that alliance, in 862 Ludovic the German sent his own mission to Bulgaria, with the aim of negotiating an alliance with Prince Boris for a new war against Slavic Greater Moravia. It may only be supposed that the mission was aimed at convincing Prince Boris to accept Catholicism. The strengthening of the German-Bulgarian alliance was primarily directed against Byzantium and, consequently, the mission of the brothers in Greater Moravia was one of the actions by Constantinople to forestall that alliance and diminish its consequences. In 863, when Cyril and Methodius were still in Greater Moravia, Prince Boris and Ludovic the German were already waging war against Moravia. A year later, Byzantium settled its problems with Boris and forced him to break his pact with the Germans and embrace Orthodox Christianity.
Lidija Slaveska has analyzed the latest research concerning Cyrillic manuscripts and obtained some significant results. Analysis of the ten oldest Cyrillic manuscripts indicates that the majority of them belong to a Macedonian redaction. The latest views about the term "redaction" deny the opinion that this term embodies only data about the origin of the manuscript: rightfully so, because that would lead to additional misunderstanding. For that reason, the term redaction can and must be understood to be the feature reflected on the Old Slavonic language by the influence of differing national environments. It thus facilitates the establishment of its national standard which can then be applied in a quite different linguistic environment. Slaveska pointed to the linguistic rule that the true linguistic environment is defined in accordance with the information obtained on the basis of the deviations and the phenomena in the linguistic-orthographic standards of particular transcription centers as related to the general standard which is characteristic for the Old Church Slavonic.
Why Old Church Slavonic rather than Old Bulgarian? Because there are no arguments whatsoever to connect the medieval Bulgarians with the historical and linguistic events, such as the Christianization of the Slavs and the creation of the Slavonic alphabet. Taking into account the latest interpretations of recently-discovered inscriptions and comparing their texts with established historical facts, Slaveska comes to conclusions which confirm the opinion of Koneski that Old Church Slavonic is based on South Slavonic speech.
In the ancient town of Philippi, located 12 kilometers from Kavala, an inscription of Khan Pressian was discovered, which reads: "Pressian, appointed prince of the many Bulgars by God, sent the caukhan Isbul after giving him an army, and the boyila Ichurgu, and the khan boyila Kolovur, and the caukhan, against the Smolyans." It means that the Bulgars and the Slavic Smolyans, who inhabited southeastern Macedonia, waged war against each other. Another inscription says: "The Bulgars made many good deeds to the Christians and the Christians forgot all about them": a reproach directed by the Bulgars at the Byzantines for their refusal to aid the Bulgarian army in their struggles with the Strymians. As can be observed, relations between Bulgars and Slavs were oft a state of war and the written records confirm this. However, there are not any written records about cohabitation between the Bulgars and Slavs. Furthermore, when the rebel Thomas the Slav and his soldiers besieged Constantinople in 821-823, a chronicler of that time noted: "...he had powerful enemy forces... from the regions in Asia, Europe, Thrace, Macedonia, Thessaly and from the surrounding Sclaveni." According to the peace treaty dated 814, the Bulgars fought on the side of the Romaeans in the defense of Constantinople and were direct opponents to the Slavs of Macedonia. In those years, the Bulgarian Slavs had never been named as Sclaveni. In general, throughout the entire period, the Macedonian Sclaveni resisted both the Bulgars and the Byzantines in their attempts to enclose them into large administrative units, themes, similar to those of Thessaloniki and Strymon in the 9th century. Having in mind that the mass Christianization of the Macedonian Slavs was carried out in the mid-9th century, when no symbiosis of any kind existed between Bulgarians and Macedonian Slavs, it must be stressed that there are no arguments whatsoever to connect the medieval Bulgarians with the Christianization of the Slavs in Macedonia and with the appearance of literacy on Macedonian territory. The reason for this is simple: the Christianization of Prince Boris and his people began in 866, three years after the Moravia mission of the holy brothers.
Consequently, it can not be a question of an Old Bulgarian language in speaking of the appearance of Slav literacy and its subsequent dispersal over the entire territory settled by the Slavs. In support of this statement the following fact should be considered: the language in which literacy was spread was strange even to Prince Boris himself, because a Slavonic tongue was accepted as the state language in Bulgaria as late as 893, at the Preslav council. The concepts of "Bulgarian Slavs" and "Slavs of a Bulgarian group", particularly when used to label the Macedonian Slavs, are historically unsustainable because Old Bulgarian was formed and developed in Bulgaria as late as the second half of the 9th century and cannot be connected with the language of Cyril and Methodius. Irrespective of what efforts were and are made to suggest such a linkage, the Slavonic tongue of the Thessaloniki brothers is older than the Old Bulgarian language of Prince Boris.
It seemed as if the death of Methodius (885) marked a turn in the attitude of Great Moravia in respect to practicing the religious service in Slavonic. Prince Svalopluk banned the use of this language in a brutal manner, putting some of the disciples of Cyril and Methodius in chains and expelling others from the country. "After the death of Methodius, a Latin named Viglisko was appointed an archpriest [Bishop Wiching, a German by nationality]... He forbade Methodius' teaching and after he tortured his disciples, they were sentenced to hard labor in chains. The Holy Brothers prayed to God, and a disastrous earthquake happened, followed by another and a third one... the prison doors opened and the chains on the hands and legs broke...The Doukhobors, however, attributed the events to Satan and with severe tortures drove them out of the country... They arrived in the countries by the Danube River and immediately set off towards the Danube River. They tied three pieces of wood together with a traveler's joy and said a prayer... and by God's miracle crossed the river and arrived in Belgrade [at that time under Bulgarian authority]." This refers to the coming to Belgrade of Clement, Naum, Gorazd and Angelarius. "There, a great honor was bestowed on them by Prince Radislav and they gave him their blessings and wished him luck... Then, some of them scattered in Mysia, while others went to Dalmatia and Dacia. Naum and Clement came to the Illyrian and Lichnidian countries." Slavic Literacy (part)
Past dilemmas about labeling the language of Cyril and Methodius have been considerably reduced in recent years. It is now held to be an Old Slavonic language created on the basis of the Macedonian Slavonic dialect of the Thessaloniki region. The speech of the Slavic population in southern Macedonia, with its own features, is only a dialect of the common language of the Slavs. Consequently, the spiritual texts translated by the brothers into that language could be comprehended in Macedonia as well as in Moravia, Croatia, Bulgaria and medieval Russia. Ristovski has questioned, "How can the language of the Macedonians in the Thessaloniki region be called 'Bulgarian' and hence, the name of the first Slavonic literary language be 'Old Bulgarian', when they, the Macedonian Slavs near Thessaloniki, were never in touch with the Bulgarians, at least not until the time when Cyril and Methodius started to develop the alphabet?"
The frequent change of political rulers over Macedonian territory and the lengthy period of Turkish rule, as noted by Ristovski, had their own effect in slowing down the process of consolidating the Macedonian population into an individual people with a Slavonic language and Slavonic-Byzantine culture, and did not allow the ethnic name of the Macedonian people to be preserved. This was taken advantage of by surrounding nations, who imposed their own histories on the Macedonians and usurped them unscrupulously: imposing the term "Old Bulgarian" for the language is a typical attempt at usurpation.
Since their settlement in the Balkans, no tribal unity ever existed between the Slavs settled in Macedonia and the unidentified seven tribes of the Antae inhabiting present-day Bulgaria. They had intermingled with the remnants of the native Thracians and with their Bulgar conquerors, members of a Turkish-Mongolian tribe who settled somewhat later and who formed the ruling class of the emerging Bulgarian nation. Even if events were hypothetically stated-for example, if it is said that the Slavs and the Antae had been one and the same tribe-it is still true that it is not the ethnic composition of a population that is of primary importance for the formation of the nation, but its historical development.
The formation of France and the French people is a typical example: Gaul was occupied by the Gauls, a Celtic tribe, who occupied the territory of present-day northern Italy, France, Luxembourg, Belgium, and parts of Switzerland and the Netherlands. After Julius Caesar conquered Gaul in the first century B.C., a complex process of assimilation between Gauls and the Romans began, to continue over the course of the following six centuries. The spoken language of the population represented a mixture of Latin and the language of Germanic tribes, the basis for the future French language. On the other hand, France got its name from the German tribes called the Franks, who lived in western Germany along the Rhine River and who were the most powerful conquerors in central and western Europe in the period between the 5th and 8th centuries. When the Frankish state disintegrated in 843, three new states were established: France, Germany and northern Italy. Today few would call the French people a German, Italian or Celtic people, although the French nation is composed of the descendants of Celts who spoke Latin and who intermingled with Germanic conquerors.
Relations between Macedonia and Bulgaria in the early Middle Ages were quite complex, but at the same time quite clear: for almost 250 years since coming to the Balkans, Macedonians and Bulgars lived and developed within the frameworks of two separate geographic regions and states. The on-going processes implied a different degree of development in each culture and the formation of two ethnoses which had literally no contact whatsoever, either physical or cultural, in the course of those two and a half centuries. It is a historical fact that not until 864, in a peace treaty with Byzantium, did a Bulgarian ruler rule over part of Macedonia-in this case, Prince Boris, as a reward for converting to Christianity. For more than a century Bulgaria attempted to conquer Macedonia, but after obtaining it was able to hold it for less than 50 years.
In 968 the Bulgarian state disintegrated, and a year later the four sons of the Komitadji Nikola began an uprising resulting in the establishment of Samuil's Macedonian state. When the crusaders incorporated Macedonia into the Latin Empire, parts of it were occupied by the Bulgarian King Kaloyan and remained within Bulgarian borders from 1204 to 1207. In 1230, the Bulgarian King Ivan Asen II reincorporated a major part of Macedonia within the Bulgarian Empire, but retained it for only 11 years. On the other hand, Macedonia was under Byzantine authority for more than four and a half centuries, for about a century under the Serbs and for almost 550 years under the Turks.
At the time of its greatest extent, the Bulgarian Empire incorporated within its borders a number of countries or their parts: Macedonia, Serbia, Albania, Romania, Montenegro and parts of Bosnia and Croatia. But the Bulgarian military and administrative authorities could not exert strong influence on the inhabitants of the outlying areas of the Empire due to poor communication links and strong local feelings of independence. Romanians remained under Bulgarian authority for about 400 years, but in 1861 established their own state and sought to define themselves as the Romanian nation.
The treatment of the Macedonians as "Bulgarians" is often found in historical literature. In 927, when the Macedonian territory conquered by the Bulgarians was officially acknowledged by Constantinople as a Bulgarian province, Macedonians were increasingly treated as Bulgarian subjects. That was not the case only with Macedonians; Serbs and Albanians who lived in territories occupied by the Bulgarian kings were also called Bulgarians. Samuil's state was treated as "Bulgarian", although it originated and was established from within Macedonia.
Styepan Antolyak claims that "there is not a single authentic datum that indicates the Macedonians declared themselves to be Bulgarians." Lidija Slaveska concludes that "In respect to terminological problems arising from using different terms in sources dealing with the ethnicity of the population in Samuil's state-Mysians-Bulgarians-Scythians-it is important to note that the term 'Bulgarians', when used by Greek writers, implied the entire population which lived within the Bulgarian state in the 10th century, just as all citizens of the polyethnic Byzantine Empire were called Romaeans. In the 10th century the Macedonians could not be defined as Bulgarians as belonging to the Bulgarian theme, as it was not established until later in the early 11th century, after the subjugation of Samuil's empire." Until 927, when a peace treaty was signed between Byzantium and Bulgaria, the Byzantines and others made clear distinctions between Bulgaria and the Macedonian sclavenes as well as between Macedonian Slavs and Bulgars. Following this treaty, Byzantium officially began to treat Macedonian territories and the territories of other Balkan countries conquered by the Bulgarian kings Pressian, Boris and Symeon as "Bulgarian provinces", and their inhabitants as "Bulgarians". Likewise, it treated all its subjects as Romaeans (the official name of Byzantium was Romania), and the citizens of the Frankish kingdom, irrespective of their ethnos, as Franks. These names as such continued to be used by some Byzantine writers even after the disintegration of the First Bulgarian Empire (871) and after the establishment of Samuil's Empire. In the medieval French epic Chanson de Roland (969) "The people of Samuil" are mentioned as fighting in a fictional battle on the side of the Caliph of Caire, linking the Macedonian people to Samuil. In verse 2,922 the Bulgarians are mentioned separately from the "people of Samuil"-an indication that the Macedonian people were differentiated from the Bulgarians. Considering the social, political and cultural history of Macedonia within the framework of Byzantium, Slaveska raises again the question of the term "Bulgarians", stating that the Byzantine Empire identified peoples by religious faith and state boundaries rather than on principles of nationality. For that reason, the term "Romaeans" includes all citizens of the Empire, just as the term "Bulgarians" was used originally to refer only to the Bulgars, later being applied to the state they ruled and its non-Bulgar population as well, including all members of Slavic tribes who lived within the borders of the Bulgarian Empire.
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