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971-1018 - Macedonian Empire

The Macedonian Empire which the Macedonians built up after emancipating themselves from the Greeks by their own efforts has no connection whatever with the Bulgars except that Bulgaria also was subject to it for a time. After that Bulgaria came under Byzantium, and Macedonia remained a purely Southern Slav native State.

Between Bulgaria and this independent Macedonian Empire there is no connection at all. They are i, two distinct States as regards population and origin, capital towns, and tendencies. The population of Bulgaria is a mixture of Turanian Bulgars and Slavs, and that of Macedonia is as purely Southern Slav as that of Serbia, Croatia, and the Slovene lands. The Bulgarian State was founded by the Bulgarian conquerors, that of Macedonia by the Slavs who desired to emancipate themselves from both Bulgaria and Byzantium. Bulgaria had her capitals in Pliskov and Preslava, north of the Balkan Chain; the capitals of the Macedonian Empire were Ochrida and Prespa on the lakes of Prespa and Ochrida.

But the Macedonian Empire was called Bulgaria. It is necessary to explain this seeming paradox. It arose from a special cause and has its logical justification. It was a legacy of the Bulgarian Empire name in MacedoniaŚ the legacy of a bygone mastery and an historic tradition. In 971 the Byzantine Emperor John Zimisces subdued the whole of Bulgaria, whose empire at that time included Macedonia. When immediately afterwards Macedonia, without Bulgaria, freed herself from Byzantium, she assumed the name of Bulgaria, because she aspired to take over the heritage of fallen Bulgaria. Before her downfall Bulgaria ranked as an Empire; her rulers bore the imperial title, and were the upholders of an imperial policy and tradition. This heritage was vacant. Macedonia required immediate recognition and respect, and so took over the Bulgarian name and claims; she assumed even before conquering Bulgaria, and retained them later on after having lost her.

Thus it came about that the Macedonian Empire styled itself Bulgaria. The name of the State is always stronger than the name of the nation. In this case also it was transferred from the State to the nation. This is why foreign writers from that time onward began to refer to the Southern Slavs of Macedonia as Bulgars also.

Instances of young states usurping the name and heritage of other, older states are not infrequent in history. At the very same time when the Macedonian Empire was founded the German Emperors were building up a German Empire in outlying provinces of what had been the ancient Empire of Rome. They, too, appropriated the attributes of a former empire. They named their State the "Roman Empire" and styled themselves "Roman Emperors." The Byzantine Empire was -only part of the ancient Roman Empire; nevertheless, down to its fall it styled itself the "Roman Empire," and its emperors called them selves "Roman Emperors." The Greek inhabitants of this "Roman Empire" called themselves "Romans". And just as the Roman name of the German and Greek Empires has no connection with the Romans, so the Bulgarian name in Macedonia has nothing to do with the Bulgars. All these names are only a memento of the empire whose heritage was assumed by those who bore them.

In the meantime a distinction has always been drawn between the population of Bulgaria and that of Macedonia. Dukljanin, the priest who wrote his Chronicle at Bar (Antivari) in the eleventh century, calls the Macedonians of Samuel's Empire "Bulgarini" and refers to the Bulgars by their proper name of "Bulgari."2 In the German chronicles and elsewhere the Macedonians are often called " Bulgarii" (Bulgariorum) and the Bulgars "Bulgari" (Bulgarorum). Finally, the Macedonians never in olden times called themselves Bulgars.

Already under his immediate successors it began to decay, until finally in 1018 it fell completely under the domination of Byzantium. Of all the extensive territories that had formed the Macedonian Empire only the central Serbian tracts of RaSka on the Drina, Lim and Tara, and Zeta on the coast remained free. These lands were destined to preserve the seed of the future liberation and unity of the Southern Slavs. The abortive insurrections in 1040 in the county of Vardar in Macedonia, which aimed at liberation from Byzantium, proved unsuccessful. While the Serbian States were laying up their strength for the great historic role of the Serbian nation in the Balkan Peninsula, Macedonia came yet again for a short time under Bulgarian rule.

From about AD 1000, when she fell under the domination of Byzantium, Bulgaria remained under it until 1186. In that year the Bulgars revolted against the Byzantine supremacy.

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Page last modified: 20-11-2012 16:22:30 ZULU