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Macedonia, History

IMRO, national churches, Congress of Berlin, Balkan Wars, Balkan War

The history of the territory and people of the FYROM was part of the history of the larger region of Macedonia until the Balkan Wars (1912-1913), when the region was divided among Greece, Serbia, and Bulgaria. Macedonia had been a province of the Ottoman Empire for nearly 500 years, but by the early 20th century the declining empire was losing its grip on the region. In the 19th century the empire lost one after another of its Balkan possessions, and by the end of that century only Macedonia, Albania, and Thrace remained under Ottoman control. After the Congress of Berlin (1878) had created a virtually independent Bulgaria, which became completely independent in 1908, and enlarged Greece and Serbia to the borders of Ottoman Macedonia, these three states began competing for the allegiance of the Macedonian population by supporting rival schools, national churches, and armed bands. The people of Macedonia increasingly identified themselves as Greeks or Bulgarians, or as members of a separate (Slavic) Macedonian nation. An armed terrorist group, founded in 1893 and best known as the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO), provoked local uprisings. The IMRO hoped that Ottoman reprisals would provoke the great powers of Europe to intervene and liberate Macedonia. The IMRO was itself split into factions, some seeking autonomy as a step toward union with Bulgaria and others seeking an independent Macedonia.

In 1912 Greece, Bulgaria, and Serbia agreed to partition Macedonia and, together with Montenegro, attacked and defeated the Ottoman Empire in the First Balkan War. Then the victors quarreled over their shares of Macedonia, prompting the Second Balkan War (1913). In that conflict, Serbia and Greece, joined by Romania and the Ottoman Empire, quickly defeated Bulgaria. Greece acquired southern or Aegean Macedonia, and Serbia took northern or Vardar Macedonia. Bulgaria was left with a small piece of eastern Macedonia, known as Pirin Macedonia, and an enduring grudge nurtured by the conviction that all Macedonian Slavs were actually or potentially Bulgarians. Serbs called their share of Macedonia South Serbia and tried to force the population to accept a Serbian identity. In 1915, during World War I (1914-1918), Bulgarians returned as initially welcome, but later resented, occupiers. At the end of the war, with Bulgaria among the defeated Central Powers, Vardar Macedonia, slightly enlarged at Bulgaria’s expense, was again South Serbia and part of the new Serb-dominated Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes, later renamed Yugoslavia. Serbs were sent as colonists. Efforts to give the native population a Serbian identity resumed as did the IMRO’s terrorist activities, which included the assassination of King Aleksandar I of Yugoslavia in 1934.

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Article key phrases:

IMRO, national churches, Congress of Berlin, Balkan Wars, Balkan War, rival schools, Slovenes, Croats, Thrace, Bulgarians, Serbs, FYROM, Ottoman Empire, victors, Slavic, allegiance, Greeks, occupiers, factions, colonists, Montenegro, autonomy, Yugoslavia, conviction, World War, province, Albania, conflict, Romania, Greece, Serbia, territory, grip, century, union, step, states, history, Efforts, years, members


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