Murderous Priests in Macedonia: Nationalism and Religious Co-existence in a Tormented Region

By Sam Vaknin
Author of “Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited

The powerful, thought-provoking, and courageously objective docu-drama “The Last Macedonian” (2015) chronicles painstakingly the insidious and pernicious role played by the various national Christian Orthodox churches in Macedonia. Bulgarian, Serb, and Greek clergy meddled in the internal politics of this tortured region; bought and sold local strogmen and warlords; arranged for assassinations, forced conversions of the hapless natives, and for other nefarious activities; lavished funds and divine sanction and unction on the kaleidoscope of allies and foes engendered by their own stratagems and subterfuges; and, in general, acted more like thugs than priests.

But this has not always been the case. The rise of the nation-state envenomed the relationship between secular and religious authorities. Rabid, jingoistic nationalism pervaded, permeated, and poisoned Christianity as it has all else in this benighted, fogotten part of the world. But, things were radically different prior to the 19th century.

“There are two maxims for historians which so harmonise with what I know of history that I would like to claim them as my own, though they really belong to nineteenth-century historiography: first, that governments try to press upon the historian the key to all the drawers but one, and are anxious to spread the belief that this single one contains no secret of importance; secondly, that if the historian can only find the thing which the government does not want him to know, he will lay his hand upon something that is likely to be significant.”
Herbert Butterfield, “History and Human Relations”, London, 1951, p. 186
The Balkans as a region is a relatively novel way of looking at the discrete nation-states that emerged from the carcasses of the Ottoman and Habsburg Empires and fought over their spoils.

This sempiternal fight is a determinant of Balkan identity. The nations of the Balkan are defined more by ornery opposition than by cohesive identities. They derive sustenance and political-historical coherence from conflict. It is their afflatus. The more complex the axes of self-definition, the more multifaceted and intractable the conflicts. Rabid nationalism against utopian regionalism, fascism (really, opportunism) versus liberalism, religion-tinted traditionalism (the local moribund edition of conservatism) versus “Western” modernity.

Who wins is of crucial importance to world peace.

The Balkans is a relatively new political entity. Formerly divided between the decrepit Ottoman Empire and the imploding Austro-Hungarian one – the countries of the Balkans emerged as unique polities only during the 19th century. This was to be expected as a wave of nationalism swept Europe and led to the formation of the modern, bureaucratic state as we know it.

Even so, the discrete entities that struggled to the surface of statehood did not feel that they shared a regional destiny or identity. All they did was fight ferociously, ruthlessly and mercilessly over the corrupted remnants of the Sick Men of Europe (the above mentioned two residual empires). In this, they proved themselves to be the proper heirs of their former masters: murderous, suborned, Byzantine and nearsighted.

In an effort to justify their misdeeds and deeds, the various nations – true and concocted – conjured up histories, languages, cultures and documents, some real, mostly false. They staked claims to the same territories, donned common heritage where there was none, spoke languages artificially constructed and lauded a culture hastily assembled by “historians” and “philologists”.

These were the roots of the great evil – the overlapping claims, the resulting intolerance, the mortal, existential fear stoked by the kaleidoscopic conduct of the Big Powers. To recognize the existence of the Macedonian identity – was to threaten the Greek or Bulgarian ones. To accept the antiquity of the Albanians was to dismantle Macedonia, Serbia and Greece. To countenance Bulgarian demands was to inhumanly penalize its Turk citizens. It was a zero-sum game played viciously by everyone involved. The prize was mere existence – the losers annihilated.

It very nearly came to that during the two Balkan Wars of 1912 and 1913.

Allies shifted their allegiance in accordance with the shifting fortunes of a most bewildering battlefield. When the dust settled, two treaties later, Macedonia was dismembered by its neighbours, Bulgaria bitterly contemplated the sour fruits of its delusional aggression and Serbia and Austro-Hungary rejoiced. Thus were the seeds of World War I sown.

The Yugoslav war of succession (or civil war) was a continuation of this mayhem by other means. Yugoslavia was born in sin, in the dictatorship of King Alexander I (later slain in France in 1934). It faced agitation, separatism and discontent from its inception. It was falling apart when the second world conflagration erupted. It took a second dictatorship – Tito’s – to hold it together for another 40 years.

The Balkan as a whole – from Hungary, through Romania and down to Bulgaria – was prone to authoritarianism and an atavistic, bloody form of racist, “peasant or native fascism”. A primitive region of destitute farmers and vile politicians, it was exposed to world gaze by the collapse of communism. There are encouraging signs of awakening, of change and adaptation. There are dark omens of reactionary forces, of violence and wrath. It is a battle fought in the unconscious of humanity itself. It is a tug of war between memories and primordial drives repressed and the vitality of those still close to nature.

The outcome of this fight is crucial to the world. Both world wars started in central eastern and south-eastern Europe. Globalization is no guarantee against a third one. The world was more globalized than it is today at the beginning of the century – but it took only one shot in Sarajevo to make this the most sanguineous century of all.

An added problem is the simple-mindedness, abrasiveness and sheer historical ignorance of America, the current superpower. A nation of soundbites and black or white stereotypes, it is ill-suited to deal with the nuanced, multilayered and interactive mayhem that is the Balkan. A mentality of western movies – good guys, bad guys, shoot’em up – is hardly conducive to a Balkan resolution. The intricate and drawn out process required taxes American impatience and bullying tendencies to their explosive limits.

In the camp of the good guys, the Anglo-Saxons place Romania, Greece, Montenegro and Slovenia (with Macedonia, Croatia, Albania and Bulgaria wandering in and out). Serbia is the epitome of evil. Milosevic is Hitler. Such uni-dimensional thinking sends a frisson of rubicund belligerence down American spines.

It tends to ignore reality, though. Montenegro is playing the liberal card deftly, no doubt – but it is also a haven of smuggling and worse. Slovenia is the civilized facade that it so tediously presents to the world – but it also happened to have harboured one of the vilest fascist movements, comparable to the Ustasha – the Domobranci. It shares with Croatia the narcissistic grandiose fantasy that it is not a part of the Balkan – but rather an outpost of Europe – and the disdain for its impoverished neighbours that comes with it. In this sense, it is more “Balkanian” than many of them. Greece is now an economically stable and mildly democratic country – but it used to be a dictatorship and it still is a banana republic in more than one respect. The Albanians – ferociously suppressed by the Serbs and (justly) succoured by the West – are industrious and shrewd people. But – fervent protestations to the contrary aside – they do seem to be intent on dismantling and recombining both Yugoslavia (Serbia) and Macedonia, perhaps at a terrible cost to all involved. Together with the Turks, the Serbs and the Bulgarians, the Albanians are the undisputed crime lords of the Balkan (and beyond – witness their incarceration rates in Switzerland).

This is the Balkan – a florilegium of contradictions within contraventions, the mawkish and the jaded, the charitable and the deleterious, the feckless and the bumptious, evanescent and exotic, a mystery wrapped in an enigma.

“In accordance with this [right to act], whenever some one of the infidel parents or some other should oppose the giving up of his son for the Janiccaries, he is immediately hanged from his doorsill, his blood being deemed unworthy.”
Turkish firman, 1601

“…The Turks have built several fortresses in my kingdom and are very kind to the country folk. They promise freedom to every peasant who converts to Islam.”
Bosnian King Stefan Tomasevic to Pope Pius II

“…The Porte treated him (the patriarch) as part of the Ottoman political apparatus. As a result, he had certain legally protected privileges. The Patriarch travelled in ‘great splendour’ and police protection was provided by the Janiccaries. His horse and saddle were fittingly embroidered, and at the saddle hung a small sword as a symbol of the powers bestowed on him by the Sultan.”
Dusan Kasic, “The Serbian Church under the Turks”, Belgrade, 1969
Within the space of 500 years, southeast Europe has undergone two paradigmatic shifts. First, from Christian independence to Islamic subjugation (a gradual process which consumed two centuries) and then, in the 19th century, from self-determination through religious affiliation to nationalism. The Christians of the Balkan were easy prey. They were dispirited peasantry, fragmented, prone to internecine backstabbing and oppressive regimes. The new Ottoman rulers treated both people and land as their property. They enslaved some of their prisoners of war (under the infamous “pencik” clause), exiled thousands and confiscated their lands and liquidated the secular political elites in Thrace, Bulgaria, Serbia and Albania. The resulting vacuum of leadership was filled by the Church. Thus, paradoxically, it was Islam and its excesses that made the Church the undisputed shepherd of the peoples of the Balkan, a position it did not enjoy before. The new rulers did not encourage conversions to their faith for fear of reducing their tax base – non-Moslem “zimmis” (the Qur’an’s “People of the Book”) paid special (and heavy) taxes to the treasury and often had to bribe corrupt officials to survive.

Still, compared to other Ottoman exploits (in Anatolia, for instance), the conquest of the Balkan was a benign affair. Cities remained intact, the lands were not depopulated and the indiscriminately ferocious nomadic tribesmen that usually accompanied the Turkish forces largely stayed at home. The Ottoman bureaucracy took over most aspects of daily life soon after the military victories, bringing with it the leaden stability that was its hallmark. Indeed, populations were dislocated and re-settled as a matter of policy called “sorgun”. Yet such measures were intended mainly to quell plangent rebelliousness and were applied mainly to the urban minority (for instance, in Constantinople).

The Church was an accomplice of the Turkish occupiers. It was a part of the Ottoman system of governance and enjoyed both its protection and its funding. It was leveraged by the Turk sultans in their quest to pacify their subjects. Mehmet II bestowed upon the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, its bishops and clergy great powers. The trade off was made explicit in Mehmet’s edicts: the Church accepted the earthly sovereignty of the sultan – and he, in turn, granted them tolerance, protection and even friendship. The Ottoman religious-legal code, the Seriat, recognized the Christian’s right to form their own religiously self-governing communities. These communities were not confined to the orderly provision of worship services. They managed communal property as well. Mehmet’s benevolence towards the indigents was so legendary that people wrongly attributed to him the official declaration of a “Millet i Rum” (Roman, or Greek, nation) and the appointment of Gennadios as patriarch of the Orthodox Church (which only an episcopal synod could do).

The Ottoman Empire was an amazing hybrid. As opposed to popular opinion it was not a religious entity. The ruling elite included members of all religions. Thus, one could find Christian “askeri ” (military or civil officials) and Muslim “reaya” (“flock” of taxpayers). It is true that Christians paid the arbitrarily set “harac” (or, less commonly, “cizye”) in lieu of military service. Even the clergy were not exempt (they even assisted in tax collection). But both Christians and Muslims paid the land tax, for instance. And, as the fairness, transparency and predictability of the local taxmen deteriorated – both Muslims and Christians complained.

The main problem of the Ottoman Empire was devolution – not centralization. Local governors and tax collectors had too much power and the sultan was too remote and disinterested or too weak and ineffective. The population tried to get Istanbul MORE involved – not less so. The population was financially fleeced as much by the Orthodox Church as it was by the sultan. A special church-tax was levied on the Christian reaya and its proceeds served to secure the lavish lifestyles of the bishops and the patriarch. In true mob style, church functionaries divided the loot with Ottoman officials in an arrangement known as “peskes”. Foreign powers contributed to the war chests of various candidates, thus mobilizing them to support pro-Catholic or pro-Protestant political stances and demands. The church was a thoroughly corrupt, usurious and politicized body which contributed greatly to the ever increasing misery of its flock. It was a collaborator in the worst sense of the word.

But the behaviour of the church was one part of the common betrayal by the elite of the Balkan lands. Christian landowners volunteered to serve in the Ottoman cavalry (“sipahis”) in order to preserve their ownership. The Ottoman rulers conveniently ignored the laws prohibiting “zimmis” to carry weapons. Until 1500, the “sipahis” constituted the bulk of the Ottoman forces in the Balkan and their mass conversion to Islam was a natural continuation of their complicity. Other Christians guarded bridges or mountain passes for a tax exemption (“derbentci”). Local, Turkish-trained militias (“armatoles”) fought mountain-based robber gangs (Serbian “hayduks”, Bulgarian “haiduts”, Greek “klephts”). The robbers attacked Turkish caravans with the same frequency and zeal that they sacked Christian settlements. The “armatoles” resisted them by day and joined them by night. But it was perfectly acceptable to join Turkish initiatives such as this.

The Balkan remained overwhelmingly Christian throughout the Ottoman period. Muslim life was an urban phenomenon both for reasons of safety and because only the cities provided basic amenities. Even in the cities, though, the communities lived segregated in “mahalles” (quarters). Everyone collaborated in public life but the “mahalles” were self-sufficient affairs with the gamut of services – from hot baths to prayer services – available “in-quarter”. Gradually, the major cities, situated along the trade routes, became Moslem. Skopje, Sarajevo and Sofia all had sizeable Moslem minorities.

Thus, at the beginning of the sixteenth century, the picture that emerges is one of an uneasy co-habitation in the cities and a Christian rural landscape. The elites of the Balkan – church, noblemen, warriors – all defected and collaborated with the former “enemy”. The local populace was the victim of usurious taxes, coercively applied. The central administration shared the loot with its local representatives and with the indigenous elites – the church and the feudal landed gentry. It was a cosy and pragmatic arrangement that lasted for centuries.

Yet, the seeds of Ottoman bestiality and future rebellion were sown from the very inception of this empire-extending conquest. The “devsirme” tax was an example of the fragility of the Turkish veneer of humanity and enlightened rule. Christian sons were kidnapped, forcibly converted to Islam and trained as fighters in the fearsome Janiccary Corps (the palace Guards). They were never to see their families and friends again. Exemptions from this barbarous practice were offered only to select communities which somehow contributed to Ottoman rule in the Balkan. Christian women were often abducted by local Ottoman dignitaries. and the custom of the “kepin”, allowed Moslems to “buy” a Christian daughter off her husband on a “temporary” basis. The results of such a union were raised as Moslems.

And then there were the mass conversions of Christians to Islam. These conversions were very rarely the results of coercion or barbarous conduct. On the contrary, by shrinking the tax base and the recruitment pool, conversion were unwelcome and closely scrutinized by the Turks. But to convert was such an advantageous and appealing act that the movement bordered on mass hysteria. Landowners converted to preserve their title to the land. “Sipahis” converted to advance in the ranks of the military. Christian officials converted to maintain their officialdom. Ordinary folk converted to avoid onerous taxes. Christian traders converted to Islam to be able to testify in court in case of commercial litigation. Converted Moslems were allowed to speak Arabic or their own language, rather than the cumbersome and elaborate formal Turkish. Christians willingly traded eternal salvation for earthly benefits. And, of course, death awaited those who recanted (like the Orthodox “New Martyrs”, who discovered their Christian origins, having been raised as Moslems).

Perhaps this was because, in large swathes of the Balkan, Christianity never really took hold. It was adopted by the peasant as a folk religion – as was Islam later. In Bosnia, for instance, Muslims and Christians were virtually indistinguishable. They prayed in each other’s shrines, celebrated each other’s holidays and adopted the same customs. Muslim mysticism (the Sufi orders) appealed to many sophisticated urban Christians. Heretic cults (like the Bogomils) converted en masse. Intermarriage flourished, mainly between Muslim men (who could not afford the dowry payable to a Muslim woman) and Christian women (who had to pay a dowry to her Muslim husband’s family). Marrying a Christian woman was a lucrative business proposition.

And, then, of course, there was the Moslem birth rate. With four women and a pecuniary preference for large families – Moslem out-bred Christians at all times. This trend is most pronounced today but it was always a prominent demographic fact.

But the success of Islam to conquer the Balkan, rule it, convert its population and prevail in it – had to do more with the fatal flaws of Balkan Christianity than with the appeal and resilience of Islam and its Ottoman rendition. In the next chapter I will attempt to ponder the complex interaction between Catholicism and Orthodox Christianity as it was manifested in Croatia and Bosnia, the border lands between the Habsburg and the Ottoman empires and between “Rome” and “Byzantium”. I will then explore the variance in the Ottoman attitudes towards various Christian communities and the reasons underlying this diversity of treatment modalities.

“From the beginning, people of different languages and religions were permitted to live in Christian lands and cities, namely Jews, Armenians, Ismaelites, Agarenes and others such as these, except that they do not mix with Christians, but rather live separately. For this reason, places have been designated for these according to ethnic group, either within the city or without, so that they may be restricted to these and not extend their dwelling beyond them.”
Bishop Demetrios Khomatianos of Ohrid, late 12th century and early 13th century AD

“The Latins still have not been anathematized, nor has a great ecumenical council acted against them … And even to this day this continues, although it is said that they still wait for the repentance of the great Roman Church.”

“…do not overlook us, singing with deaf ears, but give us your understanding, according to sacred precepts, as you yourself inspired the apostles … You see, Lord, the battle of many years of your churches. Grant us humility, quiet the storm, so that we may know in each other your mercy, and we may not forget before the end the mystery of your love … May we coexist in unity with each other, and become wise also, so that we may live in you and in your eternal creator the Father and in his only-begotten Word. You are life, love, peace, truth, and sanctity…”
East European Studies Occasional Paper, Number 47, “Christianity and Islam in Southeastern Europe – Slavic Orthodox Attitudes toward Other Religions”, Eve Levin, January 1997

“…you faced the serpent and the enemy of God’s churches, having judged that it would have been unbearable for your heart to see the Christians of your fatherland overwhelmed by the Moslems (izmailteni); if you could not accomplish this, you would leave the glory of your kingdom on earth to perish, and having become purple with your blood, you would join the soldiers of the heavenly kingdom. In this way, your two wishes were fulfilled. You killed the serpent, and you received from God the wreath of martyrdom.”
Mateja Matejic and Dragan Milivojevic, “An Anthology of Medieval Serbian Literature in English”, Columbus, Ohio: Slavica, 1978
Any effort to understand the modern quagmire that is the Balkan must address religion and religious animosities and grievances. Yet, the surprising conclusion of such a study is bound to be that the role of inter-faith hatred and conflict has been greatly exaggerated. The Balkan was characterized more by religious tolerance than by religious persecution. It was a model of successful co-habitation and co-existence even of the bitterest enemies of the most disparate backgrounds. Only the rise of the modern nation-state exacerbated long-standing and hitherto dormant tensions. Actually, the modern state was established on a foundation of artificially fanned antagonism and xenophobia.

Religions in the Balkan were never monolithic enterprises. Competing influences, paranoia, xenophobia and adverse circumstances all conspired to fracture the religious landscape. Thus, for instance, though officially owing allegiance to the patriarch in Constantinople and the Orthodox “oikumene”, both Serb and Bulgarian churches collaborated with the rulers of the day against perceived Byzantine (Greek and Russian) political encroachment in religious guise. The southern Slav churches rejected both the theology and the secular teachings of the “Hellenics” and the “Romanians” (Romans). In turn, the Greek church held the Slav church in disregard and treated the peasants of Macedonia, Serbia, Bulgaria and Albania to savage rounds of tax collection. The Orthodox, as have all religions, berated other confessions and denominations. But Orthodoxy was always benign – no “jihad”, no bloodshed, no forced conversions and no mass expulsions – perhaps with the exception of the forcible treatment of the Bogomils.

It was all about power and money, of course. Bishops and archbishops did not hesitate to co-opt the Ottoman administration against their adversaries. They had their rivals arrested by the Turks or ex-communicated them. Such squabbles were common. But they never amounted to more than a Balkanian comedia del-arte. Even the Jews – persecuted all over western Europe – were tolerated and attained prominence and influence in the Balkan. One Bulgarian Tsar divorced his wife to marry a Jewess. Southern Orthodox Christianity (as opposed to the virulent and vituperative Byzantine species) has always been pragmatic. The minorities (Jews, Armenians, Vlachs) were the economic and financial backbone of their societies. And the Balkan was always a hodge-podge of ethnicities, cultures and religions. Shifting political fortunes ensured a policy of “hedging one’s bets”.

The two great competitors of Orthodox Christianity in the tight market of souls were Catholicism and Islam. The former co-sponsored with the Orthodox Church the educational efforts of Cyril and Methodius. Even before the traumatic schism of 1054, Catholics and nascent Orthodox were battling over (lucrative) religious turf in Bulgaria.

The schism was a telling affair. Ostensibly, it revolved around obscure theological issues (who begat the Holy Spirit – the Father alone or jointly with the Son as well as which type of bread should be used in the Eucharist). But really it was a clash of authorities and interests – the Pope versus the patriarch of Constantinople, the Romans versus the Greeks and Slavs. Matters of jurisdiction coalesced with political meddling in a confluence of ill-will that has simmered for at least two centuries. The southern (Slav) Orthodox churches contributed to the debate and supported the Greek position. Sects such as the Hesychasts were more Byzantine than the Greeks and denounced wavering Orthodox clergy. Many a south Orthodox pilloried the Catholic stance as an heresy of Armenian or Apollinarian or Arian origin – thus displaying their ignorance of the subtler points of the theological debate. They also got wrong the Greek argumentation regarding the bread of the Eucharist and the history of the schism. But zeal compensated for ignorance, as is often the case in the Balkan.

What started as a debate – however fervent – about abstract theology became an all out argument about derided customs and ceremonies. Diet, dates and divine practices all starred in these grotesque exchanges. The Latin ate unclean beasts. They used five fingers to cross themselves. They did not sing Hallelujah. They allowed the consumption of dairy products in Lent. The list was long and preposterous. The parties were spoiling for a fight. As is so often the case in this accursed swathe of the earth, identity and delusional superiority were secured through opposition and self-worth was attained through defiance. By relegating them to the role of malevolent heretics, the Orthodox made the sins of the Catholics unforgivable, their behaviour inexcusable, their fate sealed.

At the beginning, the attacks were directed at the “Latins” – foreigners from Germany and France. Local Catholics were somehow dissociated and absolved from the diabolical attributes of their fellow-believers abroad. They used the same calendar as the Orthodox (except for Lent) and similarly prayed in Church Slavonic. The only visible difference was the recognition of papal authority by the Catholics. Catholicism presented a coherent and veteran alternative to Orthodoxy’s inchoate teachings. Secular authorities were ambiguous about how to treat their Catholic subjects and did not hesitate to collaborate with Catholic authorities against the Turks. Thus, to preserve itself as a viable religious alternative, the Orthodox church had to differentiate itself from the Holy See. Hence, the flaming debates and pejorative harangues.

The second great threat was Islam. Still, it was a latecomer. Catholicism and Orthodoxy have been foes since the ninth century. Four hundreds years later, Byzantine wars against the Moslems were a distant thunder and raised little curiosity and interest in the Balkan. The Orthodox church was acquainted with the tenets of Islamic faith but did not bother to codify its knowledge or record it. Islam was, to it, despite its impeccable monotheistic credentials, an exotic Oriental off-shoot of tribal paganism.

Thus, the Turkish invasion and the hardships of daily life under Ottoman rule found Orthodoxy unprepared. It reacted the way we all react to fear of the unknown: superstitions, curses, name calling. On the one hand, the Turkish enemy was dehumanized and bedevilled. It was perceived to be God’s punishment upon the unfaithful and the sinful. On the other hand, in a curious transformation or a cognitive dissonance, the Turks became a divine instrument, the wrathful messengers of God. The Christians of the Balkan suffered from a post traumatic stress syndrome. They went through the classical phases of grief. They started by denying the defeat (in Kosovo, for instance) and they proceeded through rage, sadness and acceptance.

All four phases co-existed in Balkan history. Denial by the many who resorted to mysticism and delusional political thought. That the Turks failed for centuries to subdue pockets of resistance (for instance in Montenegro) served to rekindle these hopes and delusions periodically. Thus, the Turks (and, by extension, Islam) served as a politically cohering factor and provided a cause to rally around. Rage manifested through the acts against the occupying Ottomans of individuals or rebellious groups. Sadness was expressed in liturgy, in art and literature, in music and in dance. Acceptance by conceiving of the Turks as the very hand of God Himself. But, gradually, the Turks and their rule came to be regarded as the work of the devil as it was incurring the wrath of God.

But again, this negative and annihilating attitude was reserved to outsiders and foreigners, the off-spring of Ishmael and of Hagar, the Latins and the Turks. Moslem or Catholic neighbours were rarely, if ever, the target of such vitriolic diatribes. External enemies – be they Christian or Moslem – were always to be cursed and resisted. Neighbours of the same ethnicity were never to be punished or discriminated against for their religion or convictions – though half-hearted condemnations did occur. The geographical and ethnic community seems to have been a critical determinant of identity even when confronted with an enemy at the gates. Members of an ethnic community could share the same religious faith as the invader or the heretic – yet this detracted none from their allegiance and place in their society as emanating from birth and long term residence. These tolerance and acceptance prevailed even in the face of Ottoman segregation of religious communities in ethnically-mixed “millets”. This principle was shattered finally by the advent of the modern nation-state and its defining parameters (history and language), real or (more often) invented. One could sometimes find members of the same nuclear family – but of different religious affiliation. Secular rulers and artisans in guilds collaborated unhesitatingly with Jews, Turks and Catholics. Conversions to and fro were common practice, as ways to secure economic benefits. These phenomena were especially prevalent in the border areas of Croatia and Bosnia. But everyone, throughout the Balkan, shared the same rituals, the way of life, the superstitions, the magic, the folklore, the customs and the habits regardless of religious persuasion.

Where religions co-existed, they fused syncretically. Some Sufi sects (mainly among the Janiccary) adopted Catholic rituals, made the sign of the cross, drank alcohol and ate pork. The followers of Bedreddin were Jews and Christians, as well as Moslems. Everybody shared miraculous sites, icons, even prayers. Orthodox Slavs pilgrims to the holy places in Palestine were titled “Hadzi” and Moslems were especially keen on Easter eggs and holy water as talismans of health. Calendars enumerated the holidays of all religions, side by side. Muslim judges (“kadis”) married Muslim men to non-Muslim women and inter-marriage was rife. They also married and divorced Catholic couples, in contravention of the Catholic faith. Orthodox and Catholic habitually intermarried and interbred.

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Author Bio

Sam Vaknin ( http://samvak.tripod.com ) is the author of Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain – How the West Lost the East, as well as many other books and ebooks about topics in psychology, relationships, philosophy, economics, international affairs, and award-winning short fiction.
He is the Editor-in-Chief of Global Politician and served as a columnist for Central Europe Review, PopMatters, eBookWeb , and Bellaonline, and as a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent. He was the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory and Suite101.
Visit Sam’s Web site at http://www.narcissistic-abuse.com

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The Last Macedonian: Myth, Apprehension, and Trauma

By Sam Vaknin
Author of “Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited

The docu-drama “The Last Macedonian” (2015) is an unsettling, heartrending, and surprisingly balanced view of the trauma-ridden history of the Macedonian people in the last hundred years. One of the questions it undauntedly raises is: is there a Macedonian nation at all? Macedonians have been repeatedly subjected to ethnic cleansing and brutal, even murderous attempts at assimilation by all their neighbors, most notoriously the Serbs and the Greeks, but also the Bulgarians. Many of them identified with their captors in a kind of Stockholm Syndrome writ large. The extent of backstabbing and treason these coerced or bought allegiances have engendered raises serious doubts as to the national cohesion and coherent (often self-imputed) identity of this group of people.

Then there is the issue of who is to blame for the sorry state of Macedonia and its denizens: the meddling Big Powers? Definitely. But also the numerous collaborators from among their ostensible victims. The Macedonians were never above selling themselves, their values, and their loyalty down the river Vardar for a price, any price. This propensity to invite foreigners to settle their internal affairs is still prevalent among the modern day descendants of the Macedonians depicted in this wonderful film.

The film dwells in excruciating detail on the history of the VMRO (or IMRO in its English translation). It is here that I found it to be somewhat lacking, though still far superior to anything I have ever read or seen in the Balkans. I take the opportunity of this review to try to set the record straighter (the film gets it right most of the time.)

Comments on the history of the VMRO (IMRO)

“Two hundred and forty five bands were in the mountains. Serbian and Bulgarian comitadjis, Greek andartes, Albanians and Vlachs … all waging a terrorist war.”
Leon Sciaky in “Farewell to Salonica: Portrait of an Era”

“(Goce Delcev died) cloak flung over his left shoulder, his white fez, wrapped in a bluish scarf, pulled down and his gun slung across his left elbow…”
Mihail Chakov, who was nearby Delcev at the moment of his death, quoted in “Balkan Ghosts” by Robert D. Kaplan

“I will try and tell this story coldly, calmly, dispassionately … one must tone the horrors down, for in their nakedness, they are unprintable…”
A.G. Hales reporting about the Illinden Uprising in the London “Daily News” of October 21, 1903

“The Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization directs its eyes neither to the West, nor to the East,nor to anywhere else; it relies primarily on its own powers, does not turn into anybody’s weapon, and will not allow anybody to use its name and prestige for personal and other purposes. It has demonstrated till now and will prove in the future that it establishes its activities on the interests and works for the ideals of struggling Macedonia and the Bulgarian race.”
Todor Alexandrov, The Leader of the IMRO from 1911 to 1924

The Treaty of Berlin killed Peter Lazov. A Turkish soldier first gouged his eyes out, some say with a spoon, others insist it was a knife. As the scream-imbued blood trickled down his face, the Turk cut both his ears and the entirety of his nose with his sword. Thus maimed and in debilitating agony, he was left to die for a few days. When he failed to do so, the Turks disembowelled him to death and decapitated the writhing rump.

The Ottomans granted independence to Bulgaria in the 1878 Treaty of San Stefano unwillingly, following a terminal defeat at the hands of a wrathful Russian army. The newly re-invented nation incorporated a huge swathe of Macedonia, not including Thessaloniki and the Chalcidice Peninsula. Another treaty followed, in Berlin, restoring the “balance” by returning Macedonia to Turkish rule. Turkey obligingly accepted a “one country, two systems” approach by agreeing to a Christian administration of the region and by permitting education in foreign languages, by foreign powers in foreign-run and owned schools. Then they set about a typical infandous Ottoman orgy of shredded entrails, gang raped corpses of young girls and maiming and decapitation. The horrors this time transcended anything before. In Ohrid, they buried people in pigsty mud for “not paying taxes”. Joined by Turks who escaped the advancing Russian armies in North Bulgaria and by Bosnian Moslems, who fled the pincer movement of the forces of Austro-Hungary, they embarked on the faithful recreation of a Bosch-like hell. Feeble attempts at resistance (really, self defence) – such as the one organized by Natanail, the Bishop of Ohrid – ended in the ever escalating ferocity of the occupiers. A collaboration emerged between the Church and the less than holy members of society. Natanail himself provided “Chetis” (guerilla bands) with weapons and supplies. In October 1878, an uprising took place in Kresna. It was duly suppressed by the Turks, though with some difficulty. It was not the first one, having been preceded by the Razlovci uprising in 1876. But it was more well organized and explicit in its goals.

But no one – with the exception of the Turks – was content with the situation and even they were paranoid and anxious. The flip-flop policies of the Great Powers turned Macedonia into the focus of shattered national aspirations grounded in some historical precedent of at least three nations: the Greeks, the Bulgarians, and the Serbs. Each invoked ethnicity and history and all conjured up the apparition of the defunct Treaty of San Stefano. Serbia colluded with the Habsburgs: Bosnia to the latter in return for a free hand in Macedonia to the former. The wily Austro-Hungarians regarded the Serbs as cannon fodder in the attrition war against the Russians and the Turks. In 1885, Bulgaria was at last united – north and formerly Turk-occupied south – under the Kremlin’s pressure. The Turks switched sides and allied with the Serbs against the spectre of a Great Bulgaria. Again, the battleground was Macedonia and its Bulgarian-leaning (and to many, pure Bulgarian) inhabitants. Further confusion awaited. In 1897, following the Crete uprising against the Ottoman rule and in favour of Greek enosis (unification), Turkey (to prevent Bulgaria from joining its Greek enemy) encouraged King Ferdinand to help the Serbs fight the Greeks. Thus, the Balkanian kaleidoscope of loyalties, alliances and everlasting friendship was tilted more savagely than ever before by the paranoia and the whims of nationalism gone berserk.

In this world of self reflecting looking glasses, in this bedlam of geopolitics, in this seamless and fluid universe, devoid of any certainty but the certainty of void, an anomie inside an abnormality – a Macedonian self identity, tentative and merely cultural at first, began to emerge. Voivode Gorgija Pulevski published a poem “Macedonian Fairy” in 1878. The Young Macedonian Literary Society was established in 1891 and started publishing “Loza”, its journal a year thereafter. Krste Misirkov, Dimitrija Cupovski, the Vardar Society and the Macedonian Club in Belgrade founded the Macedonian Scholarly-Literary Society in 1902 (in Russia). Their “Macedonian National Program” demanded a recognition of a Macedonian nation with its own language and culture. They stopped short of insisting on an independent state, settling instead for an autonomy and an independent church. Misirkov went on to publish his seminal work, “On Macedonian Matters” in 1903 in Sofia. It was a scathing critique of the numbing and off-handed mind games Macedonia was subjected to by the Big Powers. Misirkov believed in culture as an identity preserving force. And the purveyors and conveyors of culture were the teachers.

“So the teacher in Yugoslavia is often a hero and fanatic as well as a servant of the mind; but as they walked along the Belgrade streets it could easily be seen that none of them had quite enough to eat or warm enough clothing or handsome lodgings or all the books they needed” – wrote Dame Rebecca West in her eternal “Black Lamb and Grey Falcon” in 1940.

Goce Delcev (Gotse Deltchev) was a teacher. He was born in 1872 in Kukush (the Bulgarian name of the town), north of Thessaloniki (Salonica, Solun, Saloniki). There is no doubt about his cultural background (as opposed to his convictions later in life) – it was Bulgarian to the core. He studied at a Bulgarian gymnasium in Saloniki. He furthered his education at a military academy in Sofia. He was a schoolteacher and a guerilla fighter and in both capacities he operated in the areas that are today North-Central Greece, Southwestern Bulgaria and the Republic of Macedonia. He felt equally comfortable in all three regions. He was shot to death by the Turks in Banitsa, then a Bulgarian village, today, a Greek one. It was in a spring day in May 1903.

The death of this sad but steely eyed, heavily moustached youth was sufficient to ignite the Illinden uprising three months later. It erupted on the feast of Saint Illiya (Sveti Ilija). Peasants sold their sacrificial bulls – the fruits of months of labour – and bought guns with the proceeds. It started rather innocuously in the hotbed of ethnic unrest, Western Macedonia – telegraph wires were cut, some tax registers incinerated. The IMRO collaborated in this with the pro-Bulgarian organization Vzhovits. In Krusevo (Krushevo) a republic was proclaimed, replete with “Rules of the Macedonian Uprising Committee” (aka the “Constitution of the Uprising”). This document dealt with the liberation of Macedonia and the establishment of a Macedonian State. A special chapter was dedicated to foreign affairs and neighbourly relationships. It was all heart-achingly naive and it lasted 10 bloody days. Crushed by 2000 trained soldiers and horse bound artillery, the outnumbered 1200 rebels surrendered. Forty of them kissed each other goodbye and blew their brains out. The usual raping and blood thick massacres ensued. According to Turkish records, these ill-planned and irresponsible moments of glory and freedom cost the lives of 4,694 civilians, 994 “terrorists”. The rape of 3,000 women was not documented. In Northwestern Macedonia, an adolescent girl was raped by 50 soldiers and murdered afterwards. In another village, they cut a girl’s arm to secure her bracelets. The more one is exposed to these atrocities, the more one is prone to subscribe to the view that the Ottoman Empire – its halting and half hearted efforts at reform notwithstanding – was the single most important agent of retardation and putrid stagnation in its colonies, a stifling influence of traumatic proportions, the cause of mass mental sickness amongst its subjects.

As is usually the case in the bloodied geopolitical sandbox known as the Balkans, an international peacekeeping force intervened. Yet it was – again, habitually – too late, too little.

What made Delcev, rather his death, the trigger of such an outpouring of emotions was the IMRO (VMRO in Macedonian and in Bulgarian). The Illinden uprising was the funeral of a man who was a hope. It was the ululating grieving of a collective deprived of vengeance or recourse. It was a spasmodic breath taken in the most suffocating of environments. This is not to say that IMRO was monolithic or that Delcev was an Apostle (as some of his hagiographers would have him). It was not and he was far from it. But he and his two comrades, Jane (Yane) Sandanski and Damyan (Dame) Gruev had a vision. They had a dream. The IMRO is the story of a dream turned nightmare, of the absolute corruption of absolute power and of the dangers of inviting the fox to fight the wolf.

The original “Macedonian Revolutionary Organization” (MRO) was established in Sofia. The distinction between being a Macedonian and being a Macedonian-Bulgarian was not sharp, to use a polite understatement. The Bulgarians “proper” regarded the Macedonians as second class, primitive and uncultured Bulgarian relatives who inhabit a part of Bulgaria to the east. The Macedonians themselves were divided. Some wished to be incorporated in Bulgaria, the civilized and advanced society and culture. Others wanted an independent state – though they, too, believed that the salvation of such an entity – both demographic and financial – lies abroad, with the diaspora and benevolent foreign powers. A third group (and Delcev was, for a time, among them) wanted a federation of all states Balkan with an equal standing for a Macedonian polity (autonomy). The original MRO opted for the Bulgarian option and restricted its aims to the liberation and immediate annexation of what they solemnly considered to be a Turkish-occupied Bulgarian territory. To distinguish themselves from this MRO, the 6 founders of the Macedonian version – all members of the intelligentsia – added the word “Internal” to their name. Thus, they became, in November 1893, IMRO.

A measure of the disputatiousness of all matters Balkanian can be found in the widely and wildly differing versions about the circumstances of the establishment of IMRO. Some say it was established in Thessaloniki (this is the official version, thus supporting its “Macedonian”-ness). Others – like Robert Kaplan – say it was in Stip (Shtip) and the Encyclopaedia Britannica claims it was in … Resen (Resana).

Let it be clear: this author harbours no sympathy towards the Ottoman Empire. The IMRO was fighting for lofty ideals (Balkanian federation) and worthy goals (liberation from asphyxiating Turkish rule). But to many outside observers (with the exception of journalists like John Sonixen or John smith), the IMRO was indistinguishable in its methods of operation from the general landscape of mayhem, crime, disintegration of the social fabric, collapse of authority, social anomie, terror and banditry.

From Steven Sowards’ “Twenty Five Lectures on Modern Balkan History, The Balkans in an Age of Nationalism”, 1996 available HERE: http://www.lib.msu.edu/sowards/balkan/lect11.htm.

“Meanwhile, the Tanzimat reforms remained unfulfilled under Abdul Hamid’s reactionary regime. How effective had all these reforms been by the turn of the century? How bad was life for Christian peasants in the Balkans? In a 1904 book called ‘Macedonia: Its Races and Their Future’, H. N. Brailsford, an English relief worker, describes lawless conditions in Macedonia, the central Balkan district between Greece, Serbia, Albania and Bulgaria. In the areas Brailsford knew, the authorities had little power. He writes:

‘An Albanian went by night into a Bulgarian village and fired into the house of a man whom he regarded as an enemy … The prefect … endeavored to arrest the murderer, but [his Albanian] village took up his cause, and the gendarmes returned empty-handed. The prefect … marched upon the offending village at the head of three hundred regular troops … The village did not resist, but it still refused to give evidence against the guilty man. The prefect returned to Ochrida with forty or fifty prisoners, kept them in gaol for three or four days, and then released them all … To punish a simple outbreak of private passion in which no political element was involved [the prefect] had to mobilize the whole armed force of his district, and even then he failed.’

Robbers and brigands operated with impunity: ‘Riding one day upon the high-road … I came upon a brigand seated on a boulder … in the middle of the road, smoking his cigarette, with his rifle across his knees, and calmly levying tribute from all the passers-by.’

Extortionists, not police, were in control: ‘A wise village … [has] its own resident brigands. … They are known as rural guards. They are necessary because the Christian population is absolutely unarmed and defenceless. To a certain extent they guarantee the village against robbers from outside, and in return they carry on a licensed and modified robbery of their own.’

Self-defense by Orthodox peasants was dangerous: ‘The Government makes its presence felt … when a ‘flying column’ saunters out to hunt an elusive rebel band, or … to punish some flagrant act of defiance … The village may have … resented the violence of the tax-collector … [or] harboured an armed band of insurgents … or … killed a neighbouring civilian Turk who had assaulted some girl of the place … At the very least all the men who can be caught will be mercilessly beaten, at the worst the village will be burned and some of its inhabitants massacred.’

It was not surprising that peasants hated their rulers. ‘One enters some hovel … something … stirs or groans in the gloomiest corner on the floor beneath a filthy blanket. Is it fever, one asks, or smallpox? … the answer comes … ‘He is ill with fear.’ … Looking back … a procession of ruined minds comes before the memory – an old priest lying beside a burning house speechless with terror … a woman who had barked like a dog since the day her village was burned; a maiden who became an imbecile because her mother buried her in a hole under the floor to save her from the soldiers … children who flee in terror at the sight of a stranger, crying ‘Turks! Turks!’ These are the human wreckage of the hurricane which usurps the functions of a Government.’

Four things are worth noting in Brailsford’s account as we consider the prospects for a reform solution to Balkan problems. First, revolutionary politics was not the foremost issue for the Christian population: nationalism addressed the immediate problems in their daily lives only indirectly, by promising a potential better state.

Second, loyalties were still local and based on the family and the village, not on abstract national allegiances. If criminal abuses ended, the Ottoman state might yet have invented an Ottoman “nationalism” to compete with Serbian, Greek, Romanian, or Bulgarian nationalism.

Third, villagers did not cry out for new government departments or services, but only for relief from corruption and crime. The creation of new national institutions was not necessary, only the reform of existing institutions.

Fourth, and on the other hand, mistrust and violence between the two sides was habitual. So many decades of reform had failed by this time. The situation was so hopeless and extreme that few people on either side can have thought of reform as a realistic option.”

During the 1890s, IMRO’s main sources of income were voluntary (and later, less voluntary) taxation of the rural population, bank robberies, train robberies (which won handsome world media coverage) and kidnapping for ransom (like the kidnapping of the American Protestant Missionary Ellen Stone – quite a mysterious affair). The IMRO developed along predictable lines into an authoritarian and secretive organization – a necessity if it were to fight the Turks effectively. It had its own tribunals which exercised – often fatal – authority over civilians who were deemed collaborators with the Turkish enemy. It must be emphasized that this was NOT unusual or unique at that time. This was the modus operandi of all military-organized ideological and political groups. And, taking everything into account, the IMRO was fighting a just war against an abhorrent enemy.

Moreover, to some extent, its war was effective and resulted in reforms imposed on the Sublime Port (the Turkish authorities) by the Great Powers of the day. We mentioned the peacekeeping force which replaced the local gendarmerie. But reforms were also enacted in education, religious rights and tolerance, construction, farm policy and other areas. The intractable and resource-consuming Macedonian question led directly to the reform of Turkey itself by the Macedonia-born officer Ataturk. And it facilitated the disintegration of the Ottoman empire – thus, ironically, leading to the independence of almost everyone except its originators.

The radicalization of IMRO and its transformation into the infamous organization it has come to be known as, started after the Second Balkan war (1913) and, more so, after the First World War (1918). It was then that disillusionment with Big Power politics replaced the naive trust in the inevitable triumph of a just claim. The Macedonians were never worse off politically, having contributed no less – if not more – than any other nation to the re-distribution of the Ottoman Empire. The cynicism, the hypocrisy, the off-handedness, the ignorance, the vile interests, the ulterior motives – all conspired to transform the IMRO from a goal-orientated association to a power hungry mostrosity.

In 1912 Bulgaria, Serbia, and Greece – former bitter foes – formed the Balkan League to confront an even more bitter foe, the Ottoman Empire on the thin pretext of an Albanian uprising. The brotherhood strained in the Treaty of London (May 1913) promptly deteriorated into internecine warfare over the spoils of a successful campaign – namely, over Macedonia. Serbs, Greeks, Montenegrins and Romanians subdued Bulgaria sufficiently to force it to sign a treaty in August 1913 in Bucharest. “Aegean Macedonia” went to Greece and “Vardar Macedonia” (today’s Republic of Macedonia) went to Serbia. The smaller “Pirin Macedonia” remained Bulgarian. The Bulgarian gamble in World War I went well for a while, as it occupied all three parts of Macedonia. But the ensuing defeat and dismemberment of its allies, led to a re-definition of even “Pirin Macedonia” so as to minimize Bulgaria’s share. Vardar Macedonia became part of a new Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes (later renamed Yugoslavia).

These political Lego games led to enormous population shifts – the politically correct term for refugees brutally deprived of their land and livelihood. All of them were enshrined in solemn treaties. The Treaty of Lausanne (1923) led to the expulsion of 375,000 Turks from Aegean Macedonia. 640,000 Greek refugees from Turkey replaced them. Each of the actual occupiers and each of the potential ones opened its own schools to indoctrinate the future generations of the populace. Conflicts erupted over ecclesiastical matters, the construction of railways and railway stations. Guerilla fighters soon realized that being pawns on this mad hatter’s chessboard could be a profitable vocation. The transformation from freedom fighters to mercenaries with no agenda was swift. And pecuniary considerations bred even more terror and terrorists where there were none before.

In the meantime, Greece enacted a land reform legislation in “Aegean Macedonia” – in effect, the confiscation of arable land by thousands of Greek settlers, refugees from Turkey. Much of the land thus “re-distributed” was owned by Turkish absentees, now refugees themselves. But a lot of land was simply impounded from its rightful, very much present and very Macedonian owners. The Serb authorities coerced the population to speak the Serb language, changed Macedonian names to Serb ones in brutally carried campaigns and imposed a corrupt and incompetent bureaucracy upon the suffering multitudes.

IMRO never gave up its proclaimed goal to liberate both occupied parts of Macedonia – the Aegean and the Vardar ones. But, as time passed and as the nature of its organization and operation evolved, the perfunctoriness of its proclamations became more and more evident. The old idealists – the intellectuals and ideologues, the Goce Delcev types – were removed, died in battle, or left this mutation of their dream. The IMRO insignia – skull and crossbones – linked it firmly to the Italian Balckshirts and the Nazi brown ones. The IMRO has developed into a fascist organization. It traded opium. It hired out the services of its skilled assassins (for 20 dollars a contract). It recruited members among the Macedonian population in the slums of Sofia. Finally, they openly collaborated with the Fascists of Mussolini (who also supported them financially), with the Ustashe (similarly supported by Italy) and with the Nazis (under Ivan Mihailov, who became the nominal quisling ruler of Vardar Macedonia). It was an IMRO man (“Vlado the Chauffeur”) who murdered King Alexander of Yugoslavia in 1934.

All this period, the IMRO continued to pursue its original agenda. IMRO terrorists murdered staff and pupils in Yugoslav schools in Vardar Macedonia. In between 1924-34, it killed 1,000 people. Tourists of the period describe the Yugoslav-Bulgarian frontier as the most fortified in Europe with “entanglements, block houses, redoubts and searchlight posts”. Throughout the twenties and the thirties, the IMRO maintained a presence in Europe, publishing propaganda incessantly and explaining its position eloquently (though not very convincingly). It was not very well liked by both Bulgarians and Macedonians who got increasingly agitated and exhausted by the extortion of ever increasing taxes and by the seemingly endless violence. But the IMRO was now a force to reckon with: organized, disciplined, lethal. Its influence grew by the day and more than one contemporary describes it as a “state within a state”. In Bulgaria it collaborated with Todor Alexandrov in the overthrow and murder of the Prime Minister, Alexandur Stamboliyski (June 1923) and in the appointment of a right wing government headed by Alexandur Tsankov.

Stamboliyski tried to appease Yugoslavia and, in the process, sacrifice inconvenient elements, such as the IMRO, as expediently as he could. He made too many powerful enemies too fast: the army (by cutting their inflated budget), the nationalists (by officially abandoning the goal of military expansion), the professional officers (by making them redundant), the Great Powers (by making THEM redundant as well) and the opposition (by winning the elections handsomely despite all the above). By signing the Treaty of Nis (allowing Serb forces the right of hot pursuit within Bulgarian territory), he in effect sealed his own death warrant. The IMRO teamed up with the Military League (an organization of disgruntled officers, both active duty and reserve) and with the tacit blessing of Tsar Boris and the forming National Alliance (later renamed the Democratic Alliance), they did away with the hated man.

Following the murder, the IMRO was given full control of the region of Petric (Petrich). It used it as a launching pad of its hit and run attacks against Yugoslavia with the full – though clandestine – support of the Bulgarian Ministry of War and Fascist Italy. From Pirin, they attacked Greece as well. These were exactly the kind of international tensions the murdered Prime Minister was keen to terminate and the IMRO no less keen to foster. In the meanwhile, Alexandrov came to an end typical of many a Bulgarian politician and was assassinated only a year after the coup d’etat.

The decade that followed did not smile upon the IMRO. It fragmented and its shreds fought each other in the streets of Sofia, Chicago-style. By 1934, the IMRO was a full-fledged extortionist mafia organization. They ran protection rackets (“protecting” small shop-owners against other gangs and “insuring” them against their own violence). Hotels in Sofia always had free rooms for the IMRO. The tobacco industry paid the IMRO more than a million British pounds of that time in six years of “taxation”. Robberies and assassinations were daily occurrences. So were street shoot-outs and outright confiscation of goods. The IMRO had no support left anywhere.

In 1934, it was disbanded (together with other parties) by Colonel Kimron Georgiev, the new Prime Minister of Bulgaria and a senior figure in the Zveno association of disgruntled citizenry. His rule was brief (ended the next year) but the IMRO never recovered. It brought its own demise upon itself. Colonel Velcev (Velchev), the perpetrator of the coup, was swept to power on the promise to end all terrorist activities – a promise which he kept.

The modern Republic of Macedonia is today ruled by a party called VMRO-DPMNE. It is one of a few political parties to carry this name and the biggest and weightiest amongst them by far. It is founded on the vision and ideals of Goce Delcev and has distanced itself from the “Terrorist-IMRO”. The picture of Delcev adorns every office in both Macedonia and Bulgaria and he is the closest to a saint a secular regime can have. In 1923, the Greeks transferred his bones to Bulgaria. Stalin, in a last effort to placate Tito, ordered Bulgaria to transfer them to Macedonia. Even in his death he knew no peace. Now he is buried in his final resting place, in the tranquil inner yard of the Church of Sveti Spas (Saint Saviour). A marble slab bearing a simple inscription with his name under a tree, in a Macedonia which now belongs to the Macedonians.
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Author Bio

Sam Vaknin ( http://samvak.tripod.com ) is the author of Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain – How the West Lost the East, as well as many other books and ebooks about topics in psychology, relationships, philosophy, economics, international affairs, and award-winning short fiction.
He is the Editor-in-Chief of Global Politician and served as a columnist for Central Europe Review, PopMatters, eBookWeb , and Bellaonline, and as a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent. He was the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory and Suite101.
Visit Sam’s Web site at http://www.narcissistic-abuse.com

The Universe Single-handedly: Pears Cyclopaedia 2015-6 Edition

pears

By Sam Vaknin
Author of “Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited

This one volume cyclopaedia is maintained meticulously up to date by a dedicated team of scholar-contributors, headed by the indefatigable polymath, Dr. Chris Cook. Hundreds of entries in dozens of sections reflect the latest developments and knowledge in numerous areas of life. It is an astounding feat.

The 2012-2013 edition of Pears Cyclopaedia was the first major revision in some time. It added considerable heft to veteran chapters as well as re-introduced categories of knowledge from previous editions. This 2015-6 edition follows in its footsteps and is augmented with a Biblical Glossary, replete with coverage of the Apocrypha and a separate chapter on the Earth, its phenomena and sciences.

The “Chronicle of Events” is brought up to March 2015. The “Prominent People” section has been updated to include, for instance, David Cameron’s formation of a Conservative government (May 2015) and Lee Harper’s serendipitous new novel, “Go Set a Watchman”.

The “Background to World Affairs” – a compilation of chronologies arranged by country and monographs about the history and societies of the regions of the globe – is indispensable: it is as updated as an online blog and as thorough as an encyclopedia. Four pages are dedicated to the History and Development of the European Union.

“Britain Today” is by far the best synopsis of current affairs and statistics of that Sceptred Isle. It has been completely revamped to include a Who’s Who in British Politics and a Glossary of Recent Politics as well as chapters about “Redress of Grievances”, the media, and pressure groups. It offers a sweeping overview of the British constitution and system of government as well as Britain’s love-hate relationship with the EU.

“The Historical World” comprises a historical glossary, a guide to historic Britain, a dictionary of modern wars since 1914, annotated lists of famous battles and treaties and alliances, selected European rulers, a guide to historic Britain, and a comprehensive chapter about archaeological discoveries and sites.

The “General Compendium” is a treasury of tables and data and delectable lists, some useful, some quaint: English and Scottish monarchs, British Prime Ministers since 1721, US Presidents, foreign phrases, national currencies, Roman numerals, the international time-table, the Greek alphabet, common legal terms, Popes since 1800, Archbishops of Canterbury and York, traditional ranks in the armed forces, Roman rulers and towns, a digest of new words (including “selfie”), Nobel Prize winners, major literary prizes, famous ships, the order of succession, patron saints, the phonetic alphabet, the Chinese and Hindu calendars, the dates of Easter Day, signs of the zodiac, a glossary of antiques, taxes, British military anniversaries, and the Beaufort Scale of Wind.

The venerable and popular section “Myths and Legends” now covers not only Greece and Rome, but also Norse mythology. Pears provides a constantly-updated survey of “Ideas and Beliefs” throughout the centuries. The entry about euthanasia, for example, notes the efforts to reform legislation made in parliament by groups such as Dignity in Dying.

Regrettably, the Gazetteer of the British Isles is all that remains from the once excellent Atlas. It is followed by a much enlarged “General Information” gateway: a mini encyclopaedia with hundreds of listings pertaining to all fields of human knowledge, from astronomy and architecture to zoology. The entries are scrupulously au courant: under “Bridges”, for instance, one learns that Turkey is now planning the world’s largest suspension bridge.

To augment these magnificent offerings, Pears Cyclopaedia provides a “Literary Companion” (outline of English literature arranged as a chronological survey, replete with biographical and bibliographic entries and surveys of twentieth-century poetry and drama); an “Introduction to Art and Architecture” (key terms, movements, and styles as well as biographies); “The World of Music” (outline historical narrative, glossary of musical terms, index to composers, and a special topic about popular dances in the West); “The Cinema” (its history and famous actors and directors as well as a glossary of key terms and list of Oscar winners up to and including 2013).

A massive section, aptly titled “Food and Drink”, tackles the world of wine (including a detailed treatment of the libations of Europe), proffers a glossary of food terms, discusses beer and brewing, spirits and liqueurs, only to revert to the quintessential Anglo-American delectable obsession of coffee and tea. This is seamlessly, albeit somewhat incongruously followed by a “Sporting Almanac.”

The “World of Science” comprises coverage of diverse fields such as astronomy, physics, chemistry, biology, and human evolution. It also sports a variety of scientific tables. Medicine merits its own gateway, inevitably titled “Medical Matters”: the most common illnesses and conditions, some of them treated to in-depth analyses within special topics. A subject index caps this wondrous work of reference.

“Affection” and “attachment” are terms rarely used in a review of a reference title, but, they are the ones that come to my mind as I contemplate the new (2014-2015) edition of Pears Cyclopaedia, one of many editions I possess. I confess to my addiction proudly: control freak that I am, I like to hold the Universe of Knowledge in the palm of my hand, in a manageable, pocket-sized form.

What renders this single volume unique is not that it is a cornucopia of facts (which it is, abundantly and lavishly so), but that it arranges them lovingly in patterns and narratives and, thus, endows them with sense and sensibility. It is at once an erudite friend, a mischievous iconoclast, a legend to our times, the sum total of human knowledge in a panoply of fields, and a treasure-trove of trivia and miscellany. It is as compellingly readable as the best non-fiction, as comprehensive as you need it to be, and as diverting as a parlour game. It is both quaint and modern in the best senses of these loaded words.

Pears Cyclopaedia is a labour of love and it shows. Its current editor (formerly its Assistant Editor), Christopher Cook, has been at it for decades now. Annually, he springs a delicious surprise on the avid cult that is the readership of Pears Cyclopaedia: new topics that range from wine connoisseurship to gardening. This edition is not an exception, though the surprises are within the chapters.

At more than 1000 pages, Pears Cyclopaedia is a bargain. It is now finally available on Amazon. Pears Cyclopaedia is wonderful, in the true meaning of this word: it is full of wonders and, therefore, is itself a wonder.

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Author Bio

Sam Vaknin ( http://samvak.tripod.com ) is the author of Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain – How the West Lost the East, as well as many other books and ebooks about topics in psychology, relationships, philosophy, economics, international affairs, and award-winning short fiction.
He is the Editor-in-Chief of Global Politician and served as a columnist for Central Europe Review, PopMatters, eBookWeb , and Bellaonline, and as a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent. He was the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory and Suite101.
Visit Sam’s Web site at http://www.narcissistic-abuse.com