Blesok no. 86, September-October, 2012

The Innovation and Creativity of the Macedonian XIX Century

Valentina Mironska

The Macedonian XIX Century (Makedonsko XIX stoljeće, Rijeka, Croatia, 2011, 245) is a new publication by Goran Kalogjera[1] – a ‘Macedonist’, who has been promoting Macedonian literature, language and culture in Croatia. Through this book, Kalogjera takes on the initiative to represent the Macedonian XIX century by having it summarized from several aspects: social, political, economic and cultural. The book in turn represents a challenging read, as its direct, open and concise manner of presentation is marked by observed opinions, attitudes and evaluations by other Macedonists, namely those of non-Macedonian origins, in regards to ‘our’ nineteenth century.
Kalogjera’s engagement on the affirmation of Macedonian literature, his understanding of the circumstances surrounding the dynamics of the construction of the Macedonian identity in the XIX century, lies in his affirmative approach to the truth about Macedonia, something which we, as Macedonians, find it to be of paramount importance. He ‘enters’ situations exceptionally well, negotiating with the leaders of the Macedonian national revival movement, the enlightenment-harbingers, and at times, chooses to challenge the opponents of ‘the Macedonian question’ to an open debate. Ostensibly, Kalogjera seems to have accepted the Macedonian cause, and stands for its validity by sharing his personal views, which are the result of original archival materials, as well as examples of Macedonian scientific thought. He is one of a few non-Macedonian scientists who exclusively recognizes and respects the Macedonian scientific thought. At the same time, he knows how to add or re-evaluate things, to problematize matters, which in turn leads all of us, working in the field, to new venues for new research. He is direct, realistic, unpretentions; there are no forgeries or mystifications. His remark addressed to his Macedonian colleagues is related to their pronounced pessimism and skimpiness when it comes to the evaluation and recognition of the results of the national revival movement.
In this book, history, i.e., all the current issues of the Macedonian XIX century are targeted. The first part, titled “Mercantile, Social and Political Circumstances in Macedonia in the XIX Century”, includes nine studies, in which Kalogjera writes about the geopolitcal and economic conditions, the education system and the language issue, the political position of Macedonia inside the Ottoman Empire, the socio-cultural life, i.e., the libraries, reading rooms and the musical life, the foreign propaganda on the territory of Macedonia, the results of the first revival period and the literary activity (with three articles, titled, “Art Literature”, “Oral Literature” and “Introducing Folk Speech in the Printed Word”. The second part, “In Pursuit of a National Identity”, consists of twenty-two studies, in which he writes about the Greek and exarchistic propaganda, the economic, social and political conditions in the second half of the XIX century, the struggle of the Macedonian people against the Patriarchate of Constantinople and the national awakening of Macedonian cities and municipalities, the Slavic alternative, the clashes with the Bulgarian Exarchate and the Uniat movement, the revolutionary movements in Macedonia and abroad, the support from the academic circles for the Macedonian question/issue, the attempt to re-activate the Ohrid Archbishopric (The Third Uniat Movement), the revolutionary ferment and the divisions and conflicts between the separatists and the ‘vrhovists’ [pro-Bulgarian supremacists] at the end of XIX century, for the period before Ilinden (before 1903). In the end of this part there is a sub-part titled “A Summary of the Literary Production in the Final Decades of the XIX Century”, containing the following studies: “Folklorists”, “Story-tellers”, “Dramatic Art”, and “Poetry”. The third part considers, separately, “The Writers, Textbook Creators and Revolutionaries”, including the following names: P. Zografski, D. Miladinov, G. Prličev, J. H. K. Džinot, M. Cepenkov, K. Miladinov, R. Žinzifov, K. Petković, A. Petković, K. Šapkarev, Gj. Pulevski, D. Makedonski, V. Mačukovski, Dj. D. Dinkata, N. Kučeviški, P. Božigrobski, T. Kitančev, E. Sprostranov, S. Gulapčev, G. Delčev, and K. P. Misirkov. The last, fourth, part ends with “An Attempt to Synthesize”.
The first part of this book examines the important revolutionary and cultural movements that Kalogjera associates with the developmental dynamics of the national awareness movement among the Macedonian public. He writes about the foreign propaganda, that it “destroyed the Macedonian national identity”, and that the Greek propaganda, through the Patriarchate of Constantinople, implemented different methods such as anathemas, blackmail, terror, accusations, denunciations of citizens on the pretense that they acted as Russian spies, opening up countless Greek language schools, publishing inaccurate statistics in order to show that the Macedonian territory was dominated by Greeks, while abroad, printing ethnographic maps which clearly marked Greece’s territorial claims. Kalogjera considers “Helinizam or Bulgarizam to have been the most exposed alternatives that Macedonians could embrace”, and explains the inclinations for Slavic origins,  highlighting that he “advocates the thesis that the third way existed, and that there were intellectuals who worked on it, and that their works laid the foundations for the next generation, which then publicly shared their predecessors’ input”.
For Kalogjera, the nineteenth century is an extremely dynamic period, perhaps the most dynamic within all of Macedonian history. He notes that despite the fact that the language was strongly influenced by the Church, almost inseparable from the Russian spiritual traditions and culture, nonetheless, there was “a general tenedency by Macedonian writers to get rid of all those elements from the neighboring Balkan countries that did not fit the Macedonian phonetics, grammar and lexical structures, thus coming close to the national language, or its dialects/speech”. In terms of the Macedonian literature of the XIX century, Kalogjera states that the genre is different, thematically colorful, that the language aesthetics is uneven, but that it succeeded in realizing all of the literary genres apart from the novel, for the written literature of the period lived in harmony with the spirit of the European trends. He points out that: K. Petković, before Misirkov, had realized that the central Macedonian dialects were an ideal basis for the standardization of the Macedonian literary language; that A. Petković had made grammatical notes on the use of the article in the Macedonian language; he also pointed out the activities of P. Zografski, Džinot, Žinzifov, Prličev, the Brothers Miladinov, and asks that their works be re-evaluated, particularly with respect to the fact that this generation, in terms of those from the previous centuries, had made great leaps forward, for they triggered a series of innovative and creative moves as part of the inevitable evolutionary progress accompanying the creation of the Macedonian literature and language. Along those lines, Kalogjera’s book holds special meaning, since it emanates the need to re-read Macedonian literature and history, to make new estimates and judgments, for that is a possibility which we now really have at our disposal. In the second part, whence Kalogjera pursues the quest for the national identity, he reserves space for the foreign propaganda, which he lookes at as very powerful weapons that “alienated the Macedonian national sentiment, and had in turn, made Macedonians feel alien in their own country, on their territories, in their cities and villages“. Then come the following questions: “Why were the Macedonian citizens, peasants and intelligentsia unable to independently confront the Greek propaganda? Why wasn’t there the establishment of a ‘leading city’ or person, that would have succeeded in transating the people’s demands into an organized socially-political movement? Why did D. Miladinov, despite being the leading authority, fail to get himself profiled as a political leader, a ‘Macedonian Gaj’ due to his historically predeterminate position?” He looks for the answer in two directions: in the unawareness of the local citizenship of its ethnic Macedonian belonging, and in the ethnic diversity of the Macedonian cities that in many ways made the more compact mass movement impossible to undertake, as it was for example with the Illyrian Movement. In terms of these remarks and suggestions, I will point out that by engaging in a deeper and more precise study of what had happened in the city of Kukuš, in the activities of D. Miladinov and the leaders of Kukuš and in the Uniates, we can find the right answer to the above-mentioned questions. I think that the sense of opposition the Macedonian people possess has not left them, otherwise we would be speaking about their assimilation today rather than their national awareness, so this means that it [dissent] existed and enabled the public to preserve their Macedonian national consciousness, whereas the Uniat movement should be examined together with the other (similar) movements of the other Slavic peoples.
The book also includes such revolutionary events and activities as: Pulevski with his pronounced Macedonian orientation, the Macedonian League, ‘Lozarite’ [The Vinegrowers Movement] and the anti-Bulgarian propaganda efforts, the fight of Gologanov for the Macedonian national church, the affirmation of the Macedonian name on the external political scene, as well as: the Macedonian revolutionary organization and the period of Ilinden, K. Šahov and the writers who lived and worked in Bulgaria, namely the exiles whose theme/topic of interest was Macedonia. There are ranges of remarks about ‘affirmed authors’, the conclusions being that: folklore was a foundational source for codifying the literary language, for stories carry with them the ideological thread; D. Miladinov was an ingenious strategist when it comes to the idea of promoting Macedonianism through the written word; G. Prlicev stood as a promoter of French Enlightenment ideas; K. Miladinov knew that the mother tongue is one of the most important conditions for the formation of the Macedonian nation; K. Petković was the strongest link of the revival period; A. Petković was the champion of the notion about how to standardize the Macedonian literary language; D. Makedonski had completely committed himself to the resolution of the Macedonian issue, etc.
According to Kalogjera, the XIX century is the most picturesque, the most dynamic and the most brutal period in the history of the Macedonian people. Due to this, and due to the understanding that within Croatian science the Macedonian XIX century is not that well known, he decided to dedicate a whole book on the period. The efforts made by the Macedonian revivalists/reformists, for Kalogjera, are of paramount importance, since they lived in conditions where daily murders, fires, kidnappings, rapes, were the norm, and yet they created literature in all its forms, metrics, genres (except for the novel), while “bilingualism became their identity”. In his concluding remarks Kalogjera asserts that “Macedonianism, as the third ‘way’ so to speak, coming as the result of the two alternatives, the Greek and the Bulgarian one, begins with a literary work and the work of Konstantin Miladinov”.
As far as the transcription of The Collection of Folk Songs by the Brothers Miladinov is concerned, Kalogjera agrees with what was spoken by Gane Todorovski, namely that Miladinov “actually gave the first version of the Macedonian spelling”, which allows me to emphasize once again that we need a new reading of the damskin tradition, the abolishment of the Ohrid Archbishopric, and the idea of the uniat movements juxtaposed to similar movements found with other Slavic peoples, since there had to be a degree of continuity in order to achieve the greatest achievement of the XIX century , which according to Kalogjera is the generally accepted stance that Macedonia is a country that belongs to Macedonians. In this context, he experiences the frequent referencing of Alexander the Great. In the end Kalogjera surmises that “the Macedonian XIX century can be marked it as a ‘movens’ of all the well-meaning, positive individuals, whose literary, cultural, folkloristic, linguistic, pedagogical, political, and revolutionary initiatives signaled the beginning of a new, Macedonistic oriented direction to a new future. Sovereign and independent Macedonia”.


1. An honorary member of MANU (The Macedonian Academy of Sciences and Arts), of The Macedonian Writers’ Association, an honorary doctor of philosophy from Sts. Cyril and Methodius University, an honorary consul of the Republic of Macedonia in Croatia, a recipient of the national award “St. Clement of Ohrid”, “The Racin Award”, the Golden Plaque of Sts. Cyril and Methodius University, the Certificate of Appreciation from the International Seminar of Macedonian Language, Literature and Culture, the national award “Orden za zaslugi za Makedonija” (a medal of accomplishment bestowed to promoters of Macedonian culture abroad), etc.

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