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Interview with Professor Dr. Vanche Stojchev

The Treaty of Bucharest is Permanent and Has No Expiry Date

      The Treaty of Bucharest agreement by itself does not tell the full story, not until all bilateral agreements between the Balkan States are examined.In these bilateral agreements there are references to talks for the respect of national minorities and the preservation of properties.  There are agreements that protect the rights of people to reclaim their properties. With proper papers people have the right to reclaim their properties be it from the Church or Mosque or from whoever is holding them at the time. This is another reason why the Bucharest agreement is so important. People have the right to reclaim their properties and to return and visit their birthplace, a right which exists within the Bucharest agreement. These rights were insisted upon when the documents were drafted.

 

      Dr. Stojchev, a while ago you were interviewed by the daily “Makedonsko Sontse” about the 1913 “Treaty of Bucharest ”…

  Dr. Stojchev: The article in “Makedonsko Sontse” is one of the initiatives designed to extend the thorough and detailed research found in Macedonia , in the archives of the neighbouring countries and in the archives of the Great Powers where all kinds of information on the Bucharest agreement can be found. I have researched the subject in the Washington archives, in France, in Serbia, in Bulgaria, in the Macedonian and Turkish archives and have found an enormous amount of documentation which is unknown to most Macedonians and to a larger extent, to the rest of the world.Namely, the Treaty of Bucharest is one of the most tragic and significant events that have ever happened to the Macedonian people in their 28 centuries of history.The Treaty of Bucharest is the conclusion to a number of preceding bilateral agreements between the Balkan States and a conclusion, not only to the Balkan Wars, but also to the many and continuous armed conflicts which were flaring up in Macedonia. The 1902 Gornodjumajsko uprising, the 1903 Ilinden uprising, the 1908 Young Turk uprising, the so called Magareshki assassinations in Macedonia which occurred between 1910 and 1911 and the 1st and 2nd Balkan Wars of 1912 and 1913.At the end of all these conflicts the 1913 Treaty of Bucharest was drafted partitioning the Macedonian territory with intent to eradicate the name “Macedonia” and permanently divide Macedonian national unity.

       The Macedonian people are mostly interested to know if the Treaty of Bucharest is permanent or does it expire?

Dr. Stojchev: The neighbouring states and the Great Powers who helped them partition Macedonia have not for a single day lost their piece of Macedonia which they took through the Balkan Wars. The agreement itself has ten articles to which belong twelve protocols with a large amount of data relating to the annexations. The Treaty of Bucharest is only two pages but the complete document including the protocols which took months of discussions to draft, contains 86 pages. This material however is only connected with the Treaty of Bucharest agreement and has no information of prior agreements. The Treaty of Bucharest agreement by itself does not tell the full story, not until all bilateral agreements between the Balkan States are examined. The agreement on the creation of the Balkan League of March 13, 1912 between Serbia and Bulgaria includes two more agreed upon conventions, one drafted in June and the other in July 1912, both of importance to Macedonia . These documents detail the talks between Bulgaria and Serbia . There are also in existence preliminary agreements between Serbia and Greece , between Greece and Bulgaria , between Montenegro and Serbia , between Montenegro and Bulgaria and bilateral agreements between the Balkan States and Romania . Every one of these bilateral agreements has some separate interest that is connected to Macedonia.The Treaty of Bucharest was a result of an ongoing war based on information supplied by the field commanders. Drafting of the treaty was a long process because every time there was a shift in the battle zones in the field, the information was relayed back by the commanders and the documents had to be amended. When the commanders showed progress in the field their respective representatives in Bucharest immediately demanded more. The process by which the Bucharest agreement was created was so arbitrary that it needs to be reviewed in full; not only the agreement but also the bilateral terms and conditions, especially those drafted during the protocol meetings.At the conclusion of the Bucharest agreement again we have more bilateral agreements, and they are about dividing Macedonia between the neighboring states. For example, there was a signed agreement between Greece and Turkey where the two states agreed to exchange and resettle populations. The Macedonian and Muslim Macedonian populations from Aegean Macedonia were to be moved to Asia Minor and the Greek Majir population from Asia Minor was to be transferred to Aegean Macedonia. In these bilateral agreements there are references to talks for the respect of national minorities and the preservation of properties.  There are agreements that protect the rights of people to reclaim their properties. With proper papers people have the right to reclaim their properties be it from the Church or Mosque or from whoever is holding them at the time. This is another reason why the Bucharest agreement is so important. People have the right to reclaim their properties and to return and visit their birthplace, a right which exists within the Bucharest agreement. These rights were insisted upon when the documents were drafted. The American representative, Mr. Jackson, who was personally present in Bucharest during the treaty talks and he personally recommended that the Vlach and Macedonian populations in the occupied territories, Aegean, Vardar and Pirin receive education in their own mother tongue.  However, our occupiers only granted that right to the Vlach population. Unfortunately they had different plans for the Macedonian population. They decided Macedonians didn’t exist and started referring to them as “Greeks”, “Bulgarians”, or “Serbians”. At this very moment I am working on a larger study of the Bucharest agreement and I hope to have it completed this year. There is still research to be done on the re-bordering of Albania with Serbia in the Prespa region of the Vardar part of Macedonia . It is interesting that during the London conference which took place in December 1913, Albania received autonomy status but Albania ’s borders were not decided until 1926. This means that it took thirteen years of discussions and negotiations to arrive at a conclusion on the Albanian-Serbian border. Conducted by military lawmakers from both sides and with international arbitrators, these talks ended abruptly with arbitrary conclusions.  At the end of the proceedings a lasting border was mapped out separating Albania from the Kingdom of Serbia , Croatia and Slovenia : a border which both sides contested. The most contested part was the St. Naum monastery and to whom it should be given. After some long negotiations, in last minute talks between the border committee and Ambassadors’ conference, it was decided to give the monastery to Albania . In 1925 when France firmly stood behind Serbia and the then French President was president of the ambassadorial conference it was a bygone conclusion that the Monastery belonged to Serbia and the village Pishkopea and some land near Skadar was to be given to Albania . In that manner the monastery ended up in Serbian hands and, by luck, today we have it, or otherwise it would have been in Albanian hands.Just like that with the Bucharest agreement 35 thousand square kilometers of Macedonia was given to Greece, which is all of the Aegean portion, about 25 thousand square kilometers was given to Serbia, which is the Vardar portion, about 6.5 thousand square kilometers, the Pirin portion was given to Bulgaria and about 1.15 square kilometers mainly from Prespa region, was given to Albania. That was the last of the Bucharest agreement.

      In all these preparatory talks about the fate of Macedonia was there no Macedonian representation?

      Dr. Stojchev: All these preparatory talks were led with the intent of fooling the Macedonian people. For example, in the Bulgaro-Serbian agreement there is a statement that makes reference to autonomy for Macedonia . That statement was made by Geshov, a Bulgaria spokesman, intentionally made to motivate the Macedonian people to take up arms alongside the Serbians and Bulgarians against the Ottoman army. The Macedonian population in fact did take up arms against the Ottoman army. The only one aware of this ruse was Yane Sandanski, who knew that if the Bulgarians and Serbians liberated Macedonia it would mean the division of Macedonia .  The Macedonians joined the Serbian, Bulgarian and Greek armies during the first Balkan War and fought against the Turkish army. The Second Balkan War unfortunately was a different matter. Greece, Bulgaria and Serbia, depending on the territories they controlled, each forced the induction of Macedonians into their respective armies and while fighting each other, Macedonians fought against Macedonians; all this which resulted in the division of Macedonian territory. There was no more tragic or catastrophic end for the Macedonian people than these two Balkan Wars.

      Where is the original Treaty of Bucharest and what language was it written in?

      Dr. Stojchev: The original Treaty of Bucharest is in the Romania war archives and is handwritten in the French language. From the original, four typewritten copies were made again in the French language and were given to Serbia , Greece , Bulgaria and Romania.I have a copy of the original Treaty of Bucharest.

      How do you explain the fact that Macedonia , the last territory in the Balkans, achieved statehood on its own?

      Dr. Stojchev: Soon after the end of the Balkan Wars, World War I broke out which annulled the Treaty of Bucharest. In 1919 the Treaty of Versailles, with minor changes, re-established the same borders which were previously established by the Treaty of Bucharest.  When the new changes were introduced, Strumitsa, which was previously given to Bulgaria by the Treaty of Bucharest, with the Treaty of Versailles was given to the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.Why Macedonia was the last of the Balkan States to achieve independence status is a question of rights, politics, history, culture and many other aspects. As the oldest state in the Balkans, as the only state which holds the name Macedonia from ancient times to today, Macedonia always existed in the centre of the Balkans. But the central Balkans has been the crossroads of the great ideas of the Great Powers and of the Great Power programs: the neighboring Balkan states.The second thing is that Turkey , which governed the Balkans for five centuries like a semi-island, aspired at any cost, at all times to have an outlet at the Adriatic Sea . As such it could not afford to lose Macedonia because it needed access to Islamized Albania and its Adriatic Seaports which can only be accessed through Macedonia .  These are some reasons why Macedonia up to 1912 was not allowed by Turkey to achieve statehood status. On the other hand, Great Powers like France for example which, through Serbia, persevered to achieve superiority over the Balkans by taking possession of the railways which some time ago were built by Germany and extended from Berlin to Athens, favoured Serbia. Serbia too was attracted to France because France made promises of awarding it with Macedonian territories. Great Power Russia too was involved in Macedonia through Bulgaria . Russia promised Bulgaria help in possessing Macedonia and in turn Russia would have access to the Aegean Sea and from there it could control the Bosporus . Likewise Great Power Great Britain , in order to protect the Suez Canal from Russia and France , supported Greece in every respect and assisted Greece in expanding to the north so that it could have more control, deeper into the Balkans. Britain ’s main purpose was to prevent Russian influence in the Mediterranean Sea and keep Russia away from the Suez Canal.There are also other reasons why Macedonia was not allowed to become an independent state. One reason is the experiments introduced by the Exarchate, Patriarchate and Serbian Churches in Macedonia which stifled and delayed the formation of a national consciousness in Macedonia . The national awakening in Macedonia started much later that it did with the neighboring states. Sadly the question still remains as to how much the Macedonian people have secured their own national consciousness.  The consciousness that belongs to the Macedonian nation must be secured in the schools. In other words, belonging to a national consciousness means that the nationality knows its own traditions, its own customs, its own language, its own culture, the history of its church, the history of its language and all other twelve characteristics that complete the national question. Few Macedonians readily know all their national characteristics.The Macedonian educators starting with Aristotle from Alexander the Macedonian and Philip II, again with Alexander the Macedonian, after that Philip V, Justin I, Justin II, again Justinian I and Justinian II, after that Basil II, to the Apostil Paul, Kiril and Metodi, Kliment and Naum, all influenced the world to change for the better and to improve its culture. It’s a shame that after them no Macedonian was born with such abilities that could influence the Macedonian people.

       As a military historian do you think that today’s Macedonian state needs to become involved in the revision of the Treaty of Bucharest and does it have the means to do so?

      Dr. Stojchev: In the past there were no opportunities or means for Macedonians to be involved in the revision of the Treaty of Bucharest. In view of the agreement being annulled with the flare up of the First World War, the borders have been changed and new ones have been established with the Versailles agreement. So if there is international desire, from an international initiated aspect we can request a revision of the Treaty of Bucharest which by today’s conditions is possible. The borders can again be annulled but only through the establishment of an economic culture and a great deal of collaboration.That which must be told in regards to the Treaty of Bucharest, is that there is a means to give status to the refugees, to the refugee children who were exiled not only from Aegean Macedonia but also to a large extent from Vardar Macedonia who left for Bulgaria and those who left Bulgaria for Serbia and those who left Turkey for Russia, etc.For those people there is a need to recognize their rights to return to their own territory, as well as to have their properties returned which today are left to the Churches and Mosques and awarded to others.  It is also important that the world be told the truth about Macedonia because the typical westerner does not know the trials and tribulations experienced by the Macedonian people on their own territories. A typical westerner does not know the results, suffering and blood spilled by the Macedonian people. Macedonians stand honourably on the side of truth and reality and only want what belongs to them. One of the results in the non-recognition of the truth about Macedonia is the problem with the name. When people in the world learn that the Macedonian name has lasted for centuries and that Greece never before had anything to do with it, we will then be given more attention by the international institutions, especially the European Union and NATO. Sadly not a single paragraph has been written about the Treaty of Bucharest in Macedonia . All the details must be declared and the Macedonian public must know about this tragic moment in the history of the Macedonian people. This is one of the main reasons why I decided to research this agreement and to unearth all its details. I hope that I can make a modest contribution to the pool of knowledge of the Macedonian military-political history and a contribution to the Macedonian people who have suffered and spilled their blood and who have been separated from their motherland and who to this day, in the 21st century, can only travel to the borders of Gevgelija, and can’t go home to visit their birthplace. That is the essence of the study I am working on at this moment under the title “Bukureshkiot Dogovor i Podelbata na Makedonija” (Treaty of Bucharest and the Partition of Macedonia), which needs to be told by the end of 2006, depending on financial means.

      Does that mean that you self-initiated this significant study?

      Dr. Stojchev: I am doing this work strictly out of love and have self-initiated it and wish to leave it as a gift to future Macedonian generations.

      You have until now published five books, among which is “Voena Istorija na Makedonija” (Military History of Macedonia ). Which periods of Macedonian history did your work cover?

      Dr. Stojchev: As a qualified military historian in Macedonia, with qualifications in the former Yugoslav Peoples Army I have worked for twenty years in the military-historic Centre in the then “JNA” (Yugoslav National Army) in Belgrade. My investigation with regards to the military history of Macedonia has been going on for the last twenty years.  I wrote a book “Voena Istorija na Makedonija” (Military History of Macedonia) which covers twenty-eight continuous centuries of Macedonian military history. It starts with the Argaids as the first Macedonian people who formed a Macedonian state during the ancient period, and through Perdiccas I, Alexander I, Amyntas, Philip II, Alexander the Macedonian, etc. In other words, the book begins with the ancient period, includes the entire twenty-eight centuries up to 2001. The book has 780 pages, 12 chapters and 3,000 footnotes. The second volume of this book contains about 130 maps with military symbols, combat zones and every battle which has been investigated and documented. I have investigated around twenty uprisings and fifty battles which were led by Macedonian people during different periods. My work is about war activities which include revolts, battles, uprisings, all the way up to the Balkan and World Wars. We talk about a continuity of twenty-eight centuries since the time the Macedonian state was founded.In this long period we have been a country only three times. Once in the ancient times which lasted until 168 BC, the second time during the Middle Ages when a Macedonian state was again formed in 976 and lasted until 1014 and the newest Macedonian state formed in 1944 which exists to this day.The history of the Macedonian State goes in cyclical periods whereas Macedonia’s military history goes on continuously. Even in the periods when there was no Macedonian state, there were Macedonian uprisings, there were Macedonian Cheti (freedom fighters), Macedonian legions, Macedonian brigades which took part in foreign wars for freedom while carrying on the Macedonian name.  For example on May 10th, 1759 the Macedonian-Ukrainian regiment was formed in the Ukraine . The regiment consisted of Macedonians who after the Karposh Uprising left Macedonia and formed a colony in Vojvodina which then belonged to Austria . With agreements between the Queens, Maria Tereza and Elizabeth Petrovna, this Christian Orthodox population, to avoid being converted to Catholics, left Vojvodina and immigrated to the Ukraine from where many Macedonians joined the Russian military.   At the same time the Macedonian-Ukrainian regiment was formed, Serbian, Montenegrin, Bulgarian and Greek regiments were also formed. The Macedonian regiment displayed a Macedonian flag, a Macedonian banner, Macedonian uniforms and many other Macedonian symbols.The first Macedonian generals who were promoted to general by emperors were Ivo Horvat, the brothers Kliment and Naum Chorbe, Pihchevikja and Alexandar Dimitrov. There were also Macedonian generals in the Russian army who belonged to the Macedonian-Ukrainian regiment, promoted to general by the Russian Queen Elizabeth Petrovna herself.We also had Macedonian participation in the Greek uprising, in which there were several Macedonian generals including Karatoshov, Gatsov, Bochvarot and others. There were Macedonians who took part in the Serbian uprising, among whom were Petar Ichko and Petar Chardaklija.  There were also Macedonians who took part in the Russo-Turkish War under the command of Iljo Maleshevski, Georgija Pulevski, Anton Dimitrov and others.

      For what purpose did these Macedonians participate in those wars and uprisings?

      Dr. Stojchev: In view of the fact that Macedonia made up the central part of the Ottoman Empire , it was impossible for it to muster enough strength on its own to liberate itself from the powerful and numerically superior Ottoman army. That is why Macedonians always participated in the armies of the surrounding peripheries of the Ottoman Empire . Macedonians did not wait for someone else to liberate them; they took part in other people’s liberation movements with hopes that those people would one day take part in assisting the Macedonians to liberate Macedonia . This was remarked by Georgi Pulevski in his history and was well illustrated by Iljo Maleshevski who was captain in the Serbian military, Vojvoda (Duke) in the Bulgarian army and organizer of two Macedonian uprisings.

Courtesy of Liljana Ristova

Editor, Canadian Macedonian News  & Translation by Risto Stefov

 

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