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Partition of Macedonia

In their aim to annex Macedonian territory and drive out the Ottoman Turks, Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia, and Montenegro declared war on Turkey in the autumn of 1912. Macedonians took part in the First Balkan War believing that it would finally bring them freedom. Upon defeating the Turks, the Balkan allies could not reach an agreement on how to partition Macedonia. The Second Balkan War began in 1913 and ended with the Treaty of Bucharest signed on August 10, 1913. The map below illustrates how Macedonia was partitioned as a result of this treaty.

Macedonian Cultural and Historical Resource Center

"On October 8, 1912, the First Balkan War begun. Montenegro, Serbia, Bulgaria, and Greece attacked the European positions of the Ottoman Empire. More than 100,000 Macedonians also took active part and contributed in driving the Turks out of Macedonia. Turkey capitulated soon, but Macedonia did not free itself. The victorious Balkan kingdoms convened in Bucharest in August 1913 to divide the spoils.

Greece was awarded Aegean Macedonia and renamed it to "Northern Greece"; Bulgaria annexed Pirin Macedonia and abolished the Macedonian name, and Serbia took over Vardar Macedonia and renamed it to "Southern Serbia". The same year, N. Pasich of Serbia and E. Venizelos of Greece agreed on the newly formed Greek-Serbian (later Yugoslavian) border, so that there would be "only Serbs to the North and only Greeks to the South", and no "Macedonians" on either side. Thus, the politics to assimilate the Macedonians of Aegean Macedonia had already begun."

Macedonia and Greece 1

"...even in the very long rule of the Turks, Macedonia was recognized as a separate entity. It was this Greater Macedonia that was divided by the Greeks, Bulgarians and Serbians after the Balkan wars of 1912-13. No historian, Greek or otherwise, uses any name but Macedonia to descrbie the territories that were partitioned. After the division, none of the controlling powers permitted the use of the name in the portions of Macedonia that they had taken. The kingdom of the Serbs, Croatians and Slovenians used the name 'South Serbia'; Greece referred to the 'Northern Provinces'; and Bulgaria used the name 'Western Bulgaria.'"

Carnegie Commission Report on the Balkan Wars, 1914

"The most natural solution of the Balkan imbroglio appeared to be the creation in Macedonia of a new autonomy or independent unity, side by side with the other unities realised in Bulgaria, Greece, Serbia and Montenegro, all of which countries had previously been liberated, thanks to Russian or European intervention. But this solution had become impossible, owing first to the incapacity of the Turkish government, and then to the rival pretensions of the three neighbouring States to this or that part of the Macedonian inheritance."

Macedonia and Its Relations With Greece, 2

"Following their own interests and aims to conquer and partition the European part of Ottoman Turkey, the neighbouring Balkan states - Serbia, Greece, Bulgaria and Montenegro - decided to start a war. The Treaty between Serbia and Bulgaria signed on March 12th 1912 (with a secret annexe) included a possibility for the transformation of Macedonia into an autonomous region and anticipated the arbitration of the Russian Tsar. In such form, this agreement was a compromise to avoid the territorial separation and partition of Macedonia. After Greece and Montenegro joined the agreement, a Balkan Alliance was formed and it immediately began preparations for a war against the Ottoman Empire.

In autumn 1912 the Balkan allies declared war on Turkey. The offensive actions of the Balkan allies against the Turkish army were carried out mainly on Macedonian territory and on the Thracian front. Believing that this war would bring the long-expected freedom, the Macedonian people took active part in the First Balkan War with their own regiments (chetas) and voluntary units. Forty-four such units were operating in Macedonia at the time impeding the mobilization and the movement of the Turkish army with their diversions. About 14,000 Macedonians fought together with the Bulgarian army within the so-called "Macedonian Regiment." At the same time there were Macedonian soldiers distributed in thirty units within the "National Defence" and the "Voluntary Regiments" of the Serbian army. A similar formation, called the "Holy Regiment", was operating within the Greek army.

The victories of the Balkan allies over the Turkish army conditioned Turkey to sign a cease-fire and a short-term truce, but the battles went on until May 30, 1913. However, new bloodshed started soon among the Balkan allies who could not reach an agreement as how to partition the territories taken over from Turkey. The partition was carried out by force of arms and sanctioned by the Bucharest Peace Treaty signed on August 10th, 1913 according to which all the Balkan states expanded their territories. Macedonia was not only denied its autonomy which had originally been one of the causes of war against Turkey, but it was forcefully divided and partitioned by the neighbouring Balkan states. Greece seized the biggest, southern part of Macedonia, Serbia won the central Vardar region and the Pirin part with the Strumica vicinity was given to Bulgaria.

Drawing new borders under the excuse of establishing a "balance" and peace in the Balkans was a violent denial of the rights of the Macedonian people to live and develop as a free, unified and independent nation. The aspirations towards the creation of a state of their own as a necessity, a guarantee of the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of Macedonia, were evident in the ideas and actions of the Macedonian patriots. Despite the conquering and partitioning of their homeland they fought for independence and the establishment of a Macedonian government and national assembly which would decide on the form of government and "the internal structure of the Macedonian state." However, the attempts to prevent the compulsory partition of Macedonia were in vain because the Balkan and European states remained deaf to the demands of the Macedonian people for preserving the integrity of their land and its constitution as a state.

The new masters of the conquered Macedonian regions introduced a violent military and police regime, denied the national individuality of the Macedonian people, deprived them of their rights and tortured and denationalized the Macedonian people. A regime of "special decrees" from the mid-nineteenth century was imposed in the territory under Serbian rule. In the part of Macedonia under Bulgarian rule, military commanders helped by comitadji voivodes ruled over the civil authorities and "dispensed justice" to the people. In the Macedonian districts under Greek rule the notorious Cretan gandarmerie, which acted in support of the conservative Greek governors, kept law and order.

The territorial, ethnic and economic disintegration of Macedonia caused severe damage to the economy, to the Macedonian movement for national liberation and to its socio-political development. After the Balkan Wars, Macedonia was completely devastated. Besides the tens of thousands killed in the war, there were several hundreds of thousands of refugees (more than 135,000 Macedonians and a small number of Bulgarians from Thrace escaped from the Aegean part of Macedonia occupied by the Greek army alone). There were numerous cases of genocide towards the Macedonian population in the territories occupied by the Greek, Serbian and Bulgarian armies and, according to the Carnegie Commission, several towns like Voden, Negush, Ber, Enidzhe Vardar, Dojran, etc., more than 200 villages (out of which around 170 villages with 17,000 homesteads in the Aegean part of Macedonia) were completely destroyed. In June 1913 the Greek army burnt to ashes the Macedonian town of Kukush with its 1,846 houses, 612 shops, 6 factories, etc. At the same time 4,000 houses were burned to the ground in the Serez vicinity.

The tragic outcome of the Balkan Wars was a real national catastrophe for Macedonia. The unresolved Macedonian question continued to be "an apple of discord" for the Balkan states. It remained in the whirlpool of events which were of fatal importance both for Macedonia and the future of the Balkans."

The consequences of this partition are outlined under the category - Human Rights

References

  1. Macedonia and Greece - The Struggle to Define a New Balkan Nation, John Shea, McFarland and Company Inc., North Carolina, 1997; p.91
  2. Macedonia and Its Relations With Greece, Macedonian Academy of Sciences and Arts, Skopje, 1993; p.67-70

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