During these past few days while Macedonia was celebrating October 11 – the Day of the People’s Uprising in 1941 against the fascist regime, Bulgaria sent our country additional conditions that we must meet in order to get Sofia’s green light in the process of accession negotiations with the European Union. The country that joined the European Union in 2007, even though it was far from meeting the criteria for joining the elite along with Romania, has once again blackmailed its “little brother” with a series of historical points to prove that our shared past is in fact – Bulgarian. In doing so, our eastern neighbor’s authorities would discuss “only” about the period before the beginning of World War II. The fact that Bulgaria, as part of the fascist alliance, occupied Macedonia in 1941, and that the armed rebellion in Prilep and Kumanovo was also against this occupier, is not a topic of conversation. It was all made up, just like Bulgaria’s participation in the deportation of Jews from Macedonia to the Treblinka extermination camp in Poland.
Acknowledging that the fascist forces in Bulgaria at that time did not reflect the real atmosphere in Bulgarian society, Macedonia never seriously dealt with this dark image of its neighbors’ past. After all, today we would not have asked Germany to become our country’s strongest instigator and supporter of European integration efforts.
But for Bulgarians, it is always the same story. Drunk in their romantic nationalism, they are ready to immediately turn a blind eye to their mistakes, and in turn plunder the other people’s backyard, probably consciously making myths about their size and strength. And it will always be the same, because in Bulgaria, when it comes to Macedonia, young people and adults all think alike, as well as politicians on the left and on the right, and no agreement on friendship, good neighborly relations, understanding, “love” or “darling” could ever change that.
Or at least we thought so, because the latest unexpected outcry of part of the Bulgarian intellectual elite suggests that European values are still alive in Sofia. These intellectuals said it was okay for the Bulgarian government to speed up the work of the Joint Commission on Historical and Educational Affairs, but should not return the issue of language to national communism, which is absolutely unacceptable. That it was inappropriate for agreements already reached to be reflected in curricula in certain school disciplines, monuments, slabs and cemeteries, as well as in statements and comments by statesmen, political figures and the media on historical events. Intellectuals simply point out that the overall tone of the “framework position” towards Macedonia is unacceptable. And most worrying is that the Bulgarian government’s framework position affirms the derogatory attitude towards our country’s political and cultural identity.
Even more encouraging are the messages from Ivaylo Ditchev, university professor who teaches in Sofia, the United States and France, saying that it is good that Sofia asks Skopje to expose and condemn the crimes of the Yugoslav communist regime especially towards people who were considered Bulgarians. But the same text denies the atrocities of the Bulgarian occupiers during World War II. Ditchev notes that establishing good neighborly relations involves symmetry, efforts made by both countries.
Unfortunately, there is no optimism that this will actually happen. Bulgaria will continue to insist that we are brotherly nations, in fact, one nation and two states, and the proof of this is the fact that this long list of Bulgarian demands came after the two countries signed not once, but twice, a treaty of friendship and good neighborly relations. The fact that such conditions are justified by the internal political conditions and determinations is not a mitigating circumstance for the citizens of our country who are sick of this arrogance coming from Sofia, and have welcomed their demands, especially regarding the recent fascist past, as a funny joke. We, however, have other problems. We will deal with Sofia’s requests later, what is important now is getting a negotiations date.