Macedonian Bulgarians in the United States

Members of Congress have introduced a resolution that supports designating the month of September to celebrate the Macedonian language and history, and the culture of Macedonian Americans. This resolution contains verifiable lies and is an example of yet another theft of Bulgarian sociocultural heritage.

Macedonia’s Little Known New Battles

In 2021, Bulgarians were surprised to learn that the House of Representative had introduced resolution HR 741 to designate September as “Macedonian American Heritage Month” and celebrate “the Macedonian language, history, and culture of Macedonian Americans and their incredible contributions to the United States.”

A careful analysis of the facts shows that this initiative is the work of United Macedonian Diaspora — a nongovernmental organization created through cooperation and financial support from Skopje with offices in Washington, D.C. Different sources point to a budget of $4 million and 16 permanent staff members. The organization has a history of working with American lobbyists, and these productive relationships allow it to spread its ideas. At the end of 2021, €30 million (approximately $32 million) was available, most of it earmarked for negative public relations about Bulgaria, to be spent in both the United States and the European Union. The results were forthcoming; a draft resolution appeared in the United States Senate regarding Macedonian heritage. Several representatives with a known interest in Yugoslavian affairs floated the idea of sanctioning Bulgaria in response to the Bulgarian veto on Northern Macedonia’s European Union accession negotiations.

The House resolution contains brazen lies and is an example of yet another theft of Bulgaria’s sociocultural heritage. Some of the resolution’s text, such as “there is evidence that the earliest Macedonian presence in the continental United States arrived in or around the year 1492,” could be generously described as amusing, since the theory that Alonso de Ojeda is in fact a Bulgarian named Dragan of Ohrid is unproven. The resolution claims that “since the 1880s, tens of thousands of Macedonians fled to America seeking civil liberties, human rights, religious freedom, and economic opportunities, and in response to the 1903 Ilinden Uprising against the Ottoman Empire, the 1912–1913 Balkan Wars, the two World Wars, the Greek Civil War, and the policies of Communist Yugoslavia” — a statement that is dangerous to Balkan stability. This impugns not just Bulgaria but Greece as well. It is a statement that ostensibly criticizes Communist Yugoslavia yet supports the very same Macedonian thesis developed by Yugoslavia and Moscow.

Available documents show a significant wave of Bulgarian migration to the United States in the second half of the 19th century and beyond. Migrants came from both present-day Bulgaria and from lands returned to the Ottoman Empire, such as Macedonia and Edirne Thrace. The second significant wave of Bulgarian migration to the United States occurred after the suppression of the Ilinden-Preobrazhenie Uprisings, and a third wave occurred after the Balkan War and World War 1. The most multitudinous migration period occurred at the beginning of the 20th century when Bulgarians from Aegean and Vardar Macedonia came to live under Greek and Serbian rule. This immigration involved some 40,000 immigrants and increased with time. Immigration records, and later the U.S. Census, showed that most Macedonian-born immigrants registered as Bulgarians, with Bulgarian as their native language. These individuals created their own organizations, newspapers, directories and churches. All used standard Bulgarian as their only language, and most included in their name the description “Macedonian-Bulgarian.”

One of the most thorough studies of the Macedonian-Bulgarian community was conducted in 1958-59 and published in 1960 by the Co-ordinating Committee of the Youth Sections With The Macedonian Patriotic Organizations of the United States and Canada. The study posits that “the exact number of Canadians and Americans of Macedonian origin on this continent is not known. But it has been estimated to be somewhere between the 50,000-75,000 level with well over 90 percent of this number consisting of the Slav, or Bulgarian, element, and the remainder being made up of Greeks, Vlachs (Romanians), Turks, and others. To follow this more clearly, the reader must understand that Macedonia has been a crossroad throughout history, and that it has therefore become the home of more than one nationality … But each one has its own national identity and culture, and has, for centuries, guarded that identity and culture as zealously as circumstances would permit. In this review we shall be concerned primarily with the largest of these ethnic groups — the Bulgarian. It is this Bulgarian ethnic group of Macedonia that has given a new political and national significance to the word ‘Macedonian.’”

The first Macedonian organization was founded in 1959 in Toronto, later known as The United Macedonians Organization of Canada. It is a product of the Bulgarian state’s disinterest and the Yugoslavian state’s corrupting propaganda, which caused a small group to split from the “Hristo Botev” Bulgarian association and join the Macedonian People’s League. The connection to Bulgarian customs, traditions, culture, and language had not yet been severed, and thus the organization’s formal purpose was to unite Macedonian-Bulgarian immigrants in Canada, but in a “progressive-democratic basis” that fought for leftist causes. Soon thereafter this organization came under Yugoslavian control, and its leadership was replaced by newer immigrants from Yugoslavia and Greece. In 1962, it established a relationship with the newly formed Macedonian Orthodox Church, Ohrid Archbishopric, and with Yugoslavian financing, it built the first Macedonian church in Toronto — the St. Clement of Ohrid Macedonian Orthodox Cathedral. During this time, there were so few members of the United Macedonians Organization that the Macedonian-Bulgarian immigrants at large and the Macedonian Patriotic Organization essentially ignored them. The first critical article about the United Macedonians Organization of Canada and President Josip Tito’s Yugoslavian regime was published in 1967, in the Macedonian Tribune newspaper.

In the 1970s, the membership list of United Macedonians never grew beyond 500, but the organization began to work on extensive propaganda activities supported by the Skopje-based “Motherland of the Emigrants from Macedonia” organization. As the United Macedonians Organization was compromised by its connections to its Yugoslavia, United Macedonian Diaspora was created in 2004. This is how a front working against Bulgaria in the United States and Australia was created; today, we reap the bitter fruits of the Bulgarian state’s carelessness.

MPO “Justice” Toronto, a branch of the 101-year old Macedonian Patriotic Organization in the United States and Canada, an organization of Macedonian Bulgarians in America, wrote to Congress seeking to combat misinformation. Their letter describes how “the resolution completely ignores the contribution of Macedonian Americans who immigrated to America before World War II and the contribution of their American-born descendants … Before World War II, ‘Macedonian’ was not an ethnographic but a geographical term, and the vast majority of Macedonians before 1945 defined themselves as Macedonian Bulgarians.”

MPO “Pirin” Chicago has created a petition addressed to Congress “STOP Resolution 741 and Restore the Historical Truth.” The document states that the majority of “prominent Macedonians” mentioned in Resolution 741 have unequivocally declared and demonstrated their Bulgarian ethnic origin during their lifetime. Thus, those close to and influenced by Skopje have attempted to have the House adopt a resolution “equivalent to an official approval by the United States of the policy of the USSR, to annihilate the millennia-old history and presence of Bulgarians in the geographic region of Macedonia and to create a ‘Macedonian’ ethnic group out of the Bulgarians living in the geographic region of Macedonia.”

MPO “Pirin” Chicago’s plan to send Dragomir Bogdanov’s book, “United Macedonian Diaspora — Children of Lies,” to Congress is admirable. The book documents Macedonian falsehoods in America. Yet the Bulgarian National Assembly must act and immediately send a reasoned statement to Congress and defend Bulgaria’s national interest.

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