Bulgarians of Macedonia: A First Approach

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Date: Mon, 23 Feb 1998 10:44:21 -0800
From: MINELRES moderator <minelres@mailbox.riga.lv>
Subject: Bulgarians of Macedonia: A First Approach

From: MINELRES moderator  <minelres@mailbox.riga.lv>

Original sender: Panayote Elias Dimitras <dimitras@ceu.hu>

Bulgarians of Macedonia: A First Approach

Violating Minorities Rights Threatens Stability

Mariana Lenkova

Sofia Independent

The Balkans are a complicated mixture of nationalities and historical
myths, in which everyone seems to question his neighbors identity. The
Republic of Macedonia, although only a small piece of the Balkan puzzle,
plays a big role in the overall scenario, out of proportion to the size of
its territory. During its historical development, it has often been "the
apple of discord" between the other Balkan actors, due to claims of the
latter to "own" it, or at least to have "large minorities" there. Indeed,
this diverse character of the country inspired the French to call their
mixed salad "salade macūdoine," an emblematic name taken from a
turbulent region.

Today, minorities and linguistic issues between Macedonia and Bulgaria are
the most prominent between the two states. This is so not only in terms of
bilateral relations, but also in regard to the two countries fervent
desire for EU and NATO membership. The West has made it clear that serious
talks will not take place until the "language issue" is solved. However,
there is also a problem for the countries respective minorities - the
Bulgarians in Macedonia and the Macedonians in Bulgaria.

The official stands of the respective governments are as follows: The
Macedonian government considers the presence of Bulgarians in Macedonia
incompatible with the fact that Macedonians cannot be Bulgarians, while the
Bulgarian government acts as if the presence of Macedonians in Bulgaria
would challenge the national myth that there is no separate Macedonian
nation anywhere, let alone within the countrys own territory. Still, is it
not surprising that a respected publication like the US State Department
1997 Human Rights Report mentions the fact that Macedonian minority parties
are banned in Bulgaria, but "forgets" to say that the same is true for
Bulgarians in Macedonia? Regrettably, too, even the self-proclaimed
proponents of an "open society," the respective Soros Foundations in the
two countries, in their recent publication on the otherwise commendable
Joint Program with the King Baudouin Foundation on Improving Inter-Ethnic
Relations in Central and Eastern Europe, are equally "forgetful" of these
minorities (some may explain the foundations one-sidedness with
"politically correctness").

Due to the importance and delicate character of the issue, a "neutral"
organization - the Greek Helsinki Monitor - decided to investigate the
problems of the Bulgarians of Macedonia (the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee
has consistently done solid work on Macedonians in Bulgaria and related
human rights violations). A letter detailing cases of alleged abuse
suffered by representatives of the minority was sent, via the Helsinki
Committee for Human Rights in the Republic of Macedonia, to the Macedonian
Interior Ministry...


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