The Terms Macedonia and the Macedonians From the Middle Ages and Beyond
Macedonia and the Macedonians appear through the history of the Middle Ages in the Balkans-yet the history of these terms remains a point of controversy today. This phenomenon is not limited to Macedonia, of course: the question of terminology for entire territories and peoples in history sometimes takes an irrational turn, particularly here in the Balkans. Highly-pronounced hegemonistic and nationalist feelings have at times turned medieval-let alone modern-history into a battleground, accompaniment to contemporary chauvinistic euphoria and internecine struggles.
Thus, the Serbs have been named or named themselves as Croats, Rasces, Rascians, Scythians, Serves, Serbes, Illyrians and even Triballis, although "Serbs" was established as the definitive term. Likewise, the Bulgarians have been Slavs, Volgars, Bolgars, Serbs, Goths, Scythians, Huns, Romaeans, Tartars, Mysians, Mysanians and Illyrians. Aleksandar Matkovski recorded in the 19th century that some Bulgarian merchants and Bulgarian revivalists called themselves Greeks, provoking Paisius of Chilandar to exclaim "You, Bulgarian, why are you ashamed to call yourself a Bulgarian?" The Greeks were Byzantines at one time but became Romaeans (or Roumellites) at another, ashamed of the pagan connotations of the term Hellene. It should also be pointed out that by the mid-nineteenth century the majority of Croat revivalists considered themselves to be Illyrians, and the language in which they wrote and spoke to be Illyrian.
Attributing a variety of names and terms to the same region of territory or to the same ethnic population was not limited to the Balkans, of course. The Holy Roman Empire and its hundreds of component parts was primarily composed of Germans, but the territory was not called Germany; the Turks called themselves Ottomans, Ishmaelites and Haggarians. The term "Italy" has applied to a state which has only existed for roughly 130 years; previously, the Italian peninsula had been divided into Piedmont, Venice, Genoa, the Papal States, the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies and a variety of other small political entities.
A number of Byzantine historians considered Macedonia to be part of Bulgaria, an error later adopted by Western European travelers in their memoirs and writings. Yet, some of them reversed this, calling Bulgaria part of Macedonia. It all depended on which territories were encompassed within the theme (administrative unit) of Macedonia. When Bulgaria, Serbia, Montenegro and a major part of Wallachia were placed under the jurisdiction of the Archbishopric of Ohrid, they were parts of Macedonia!
When nations and nationalism formed as concepts in the modern period, the history of these "nations" was not limited to only the modern period-their history does not begin at that point, even if modern theories of nationalism did. Rather, the history of these peoples can be traced farther back, despite the inaccuracies of labeling. When Turkish nationalism was constituted in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it did not mean that the history of the Ottoman Empire was not a part of the history of the Turks. Part of the history of modern nations is the geographic history of the regions of modern nations and states. There were non-Turks in the Ottoman Empire, but the entire history of the Ottoman Empire is to some degree "Turkish."
The case of Macedonia is similar, if perhaps more complex: the modern Macedonian nation is heir to a rich history. No matter what the Macedonians may have called themselves or been called by others, it is the history of social development that is important. The modern frames of "nations" and "nationalism" are only the latest stages of a continuous historical process, which includes the entire past of the people concerned.
In the course of Byzantine rule over Macedonia and later over the course of Ottoman rule, the terms "Macedonia" and "Macedonians" were continually used in written documents. Aleksandar Matkovski has made a comprehensive and detailed examination of relevant surviving documents in which these terms appear. Byzantine writers and historians like Skylitzes, Anna Comnena, Nicephorus Bryennius and Niceta Choniat wrote about "Macedonian legions" in their acts and chronicles, while the poet Ephraem calls Thessaloniki "capital of the Macedonians." Jovan Zvonara, referring to the ancient history of Byzantium, writes "Constantine [the Great] inherited Italy and Rome, then Illyricum and Macedonia, along with Hellas and Peloponnesus." His 12th century contemporary Albert of Aachen wrote a history of the First Crusade (1095-1121) in which, referring to the campaigns of Wilhelm II, he writes "...when he went ashore he arrived as far as the town of Thessaloniki, located in the region of Macedonia..." One of the greatest scholars of the 12th century Arab world was Al-Idrisi, whose Geography is chiefly the result of his many travels. Therein, he identifies Macedonia as encompassing even regions along the Danube River from Belgrade in the west to Shumen in the east. "As far as the country of Macedonia is concerned, it includes the towns Naissus (Nish), Atrubi (Pirot), Kukastru (Kladovo), Biduni (Vidin), Aphranisura (Branichevo), Agrisinus (Razgrad) and Masiunus (Shumen)." Al-Idrisi also mentions several rivers in Macedonia: the Voyussa, Devol, Drin, Vardar, Morava and Nishava, while the Strymon Rivor is referred to as the Marmara.
The satirical Tymarion was written by an unknown author in the world of Albert of Aachen, Zvonara and Al-Idrizi-the middle of the 12th century. It provides valuable data on the trade connections of Thessaloniki and Macedonia with the world: "The Day of St. Demetrius [in Thessaloniki] is a very great feast, like Panathenaea in Athens or Pannonias in Miletus. It is a great Macedonian feast and on that occasion, beside the local Macedonian inhabitants, people gather from everywhere: Greeks from the various regions of Hellas, Mysian tribes inhabiting territory as far as the Ister [Danube] and the areas of Scythia: Campanians, Italians, Iberians, Lusitani, Celts from behind the Alps... Goods are brought there from Boeotia and from Peloponnesus, everything that the trade ships import from Italy for the Hellenes. The quantities of goods imported from Franconia, Egypt and Italy are not less... All these merchants bring imported goods directly to ancient Macedonia and Thessaloniki."
Concerning the movement of the Crusading army of Bohomund of Tarentum, William Tirski of France states that "Finally, when they set out on their way and passed through Thessaloniki and through all of Macedonia, after continuous efforts over many days they arrived in the immediate vicinity of Constantinople." A hundred years later, Eustathius of Thessaloniki, a chronicler of the Norman invasion in the capacity of Metropolitan of Thessaloniki, writes in his History of the Takeover of Thessaloniki (1185) that "The reason for fear was the fact that from there [Durres] and as far as the Macedonian town [Thessaloniki] not a single obstacle appeared before them in our country..." Also in 1493, a man named Dancho Macedonian, a rich nobleman of Macedonian origin, was registered in Voivodina.
After the expansion of the Turks into the Balkans, Europe reacted to the Ottoman threat. One plan by Paulus Maurocenus, a representative from Venice to Rome (1461-1462), provided for the inclusion of the Macedonians in actions against the Turks along with the Bulgarians, Serbs, Bosnians and Greeks. It is an interesting fact that the great miniaturist Julius Clovio (1498-1578) called himself "Macedon", because (as confirmed by his biographer) he was of Macedonian origin.
In 1617, Sultan Yahya sought to lead an uprising against the Turks. For that purpose, he arranged a meeting with the Macedonian outlaw Vergo "somewhere in the Macedonian mountains". Vergo promised to help him and even asked Yahya to take the title "Alexander II, King of Macedonia". The latter agreed and in his years of wandering through the Balkans he referred to himself as Constantine the Macedonian. In 1625, during talks with the Cossacks of Zaporozhe concerning an alliance in Macedonia, he introduced himself as "Alexander, King of Macedonia". From such claims his constant companion Marko Pilate received the nickname "Macedonian". There is also a written record which states that in 1361, a man called Tarnoski was appointed commissioner of the peoples of Bosnia, Macedonia and Serbia. In some transcriptions of Dushan's Law Code, Tsar Stephan Dushan was titled as "the honorable and reverent Macedonian Tsar Stephan, ruler of Serbia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Dalmatia, Albania, Hungaro-Wallachia and many other regions and countries..."
In order to strengthen his power throughout the Byzantine Empire, Emperor John VI Cantacuzenus wanted to affirm his power in Thessaloniki where the radical party of zealots who supported Emperor John V Paleologist had decisive influence. Cantacuzenus reasoned that "...it would not be easy for the emperor to attack them, as the whole Macedonia, except Thessaloniki, is already under the authority of the king [of the Serbs]..." Also in 1349, Cantacuzenus writes "And then, when spring came, he [Emperor John Cantacuzenus] decided to return with great military forces and to occupy not only Thessaloniki, but also Macedonia, Thessaly and Acarnania, which were conquered during the war by the Triballi [Serbs]." In late 1350, John Cantacuzenus and Stephan Dushan met near Thessaloniki. where Cantacuzenus said to Dushan: "... despite all, you hold a considerable number of other towns in Macedonia, which were under the state of Romaeans." About this disputable matter Cantacuzenus continues: "If he is not willing [to give up the territories], he [the Emperor of Byzantium] can wage war again against he [Stephan Dushan] who holds all the towns... The inhabited towns and villages around Strymion up to the border of Serres and the mountain of Tanthessan are to be taken over by the Romaeans, while Zihnen, Serres, Melnik, Strumica and Kostur as well as the remaining towns and villages of Macedonia, other than the mentioned towns, are to be possessed by the king [Stephan Dushan]."
On April 26, and again on May 31, 1690, during the Karposh uprising, the Austrian Emperor Leopold issued statements whereby he summoned the Macedonian people to fight against the Turks and promised freedom to them. In the period between 1760 and 1770, the priest Danail from Moscopolis wrote ^etirijazi~nik (the Four Language Dictionary) in Greek, Albanian, Vlach and Macedonian (in the Bitola dialect). Later on, Danail collected lexical material in the Ohrid region for his preparations of the second edition of his ^etirijazi~nik.
Conceiving the idea of forming Russian regiments composed of soldiers from the South Slavic peoples, State Chancellor Count Alexei Bestyushev on December 25, 1750, informed Tsarina Elisaveta Petrovna that such regiments could be formed of Serbs, Macedonians and Bulgarians because "the Serbs, Macedonians and Bulgarians are of the same kin as ourselves". Nine years later, he advised the tsarina that such regiments had been formed, from the "Serbian, Bulgarian and Macedonian nations".
In general, the research of Aleksandar Matkovski on the northward emigration of Macedonians to Voivodina, Hungary and Ukraine gives a clear picture of the individuality of the Macedonians, as well as differentiating them from the Serbs, Bulgarians, Greeks and other Balkan peoples. Of the comprehensive data about the Macedonians and the Vlachs of Macedonia, worth mention is the decree dated December 24, 1751, by Tsarina Elisaveta Petrovna whereby Macedonians, Bulgarians, Vlachs and other Balkan Christians were allowed to settle in Russia and to serve in special regiments. By the imperial chrysobull dated January 11, 1752, Ivan Horvat (by origin a Macedonian Vlach from the village of Horvat (present-day Arvati in Lower Prespa) was allowed to form cavalry and infantry regiments composed from "the Serbian, Macedonian, Bulgarian and Vlach peoples." The decree issued by the Russian Duma on October 19, 1752, allowed refugees from Moldavia, Wallachia, Macedonia and Serbia-but not from other regions-to settle in New Serbia and Ukraine. In New Serbia alone, 124 Macedonians were registered.
The regimental rolls of General Shevich's command contain individual records of 74 soldiers identified as members of the Macedonian nation. The payrolls of General Horvat's regiment are interesting both for the economic data they provide about life in the Russian army-a hussar was paid 18 rubles but an infantrymen received but 16, while a general earned 1,800-but also for its records of the salaries of Major Nikola Chorbe (397 rubles), Captain Todor Chorbe (268 rubles) and Praporshtchik Mihail Chorbe (134 rubles). The Chorbe family originated in Ohrid, suggesting that a number of Macedonians served in the officer corps of General Horvat's regiment.
On May 10, 1759, the Macedonian polevoy hussar regiment was founded, composed primarily of Macedonians, preceded by similar Serbian, Greek and Bulgarian regiments. The regiment had its own flag and its own coat of arms.
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