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1371-1912 - Ottoman Macedonia

Macedonia was the first of the Yugoslav lands to fall under the Ottoman Turks and the last to be freed from Ottoman rule. A local noble, Vukasin, called himself king of Macedonia after the death of Dusan, but the Turks annihilated Vukasin's forces in 1371 and assumed control of Macedonia. Serbian and foreign historical sources agree in stating that it was the Serbian army which was defeated on the Marica, that Serbian princes perished, and that, after the battle, Serbian lands were conquered. Serbian historical sources look upon the disaster on the Marica as an event of the Serbian past, and they include it in the category of Serbian historic events. A contemporary of the battle on the Marica, the Serbian Monk Jsajija who lived in Seres, not far from the spot where the bloody encounter took place between the Serbs and Turks, relates "how the Despot Ugljesa raised all Serbian and Greek fighting men and his brother King Vukasin and many other chiefs, to expel the Turks."

The battle on the Marica did not yet put an end to the Serbian rule in Macedonia. King VukaSin who perished on the Marica was succeeded by his son, King Marko (1371-1394), and his brothers Dmitar and Andrija. While acknowledging the suzerainty of the Turkish Sultan, Marko remained until his death the Serbian King of Macedonia with his capital in Prilep. Likewise as a Turkish vassal Jovan DragaS Dejanovic ruled, for some time jointly with his brother Konstantin and afterwards as sole ruler, over the territory around Istip, Strumica, Kumanovo, Kratovo and Velbuid. . Finally, south of that, in the district between Salonica, Seres, and Lake Dojran, lay Bogdan's state. These Serbian princes paid tribute to the Sultan and had to furnish him with auxiliary contingents when he went to war, but in all other respects they were quite independent. They carried on the traditions of the Serbian kings in their territories; they built and restored churches and monasteries, endowed them handsomely and protected the Serbian people.

But the Serbian influence in Macedonia did not end then. It extended far into the dark days of the Turkish domination in Macedonia. The influence of Serbian ruling and noble families persisted for a long time in Macedonia, and disappeared only with the death in 1487 of the Sultana Marija, the daughter of the Serbian Despot Djuradj Brankovic. This princess was married to the Sultan Murat II. When she became a widow in 1451 she at first returned to what was left of free Serbia in those days; but in 1457 she quitted Serbia and took up her residence in Macedonia at Jeievo near Seres, where she lived until her death.

The beginning of Turkish rule meant centuries of subjugation and cultural deprivation in Macedonia. The Turks destroyed the Macedonian aristocracy, enserfed the Christian peasants, and eventually amassed large estates and subjected the Slavic clergy to the Greek patriarch of Constantinople. The living conditions of the Macedonian Christians deteriorated in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries as Turkish power declined. Greek influence increased, the Slavic liturgy was banned, and schools and monasteries taught Greek language and culture. In 1777 the Ottoman Empire eliminated the autocephalous Bulgarian Orthodox Church and the archbishopric of Ohrid. Because of such actions, the Slavic Macedonians began to despise Greek ecclesiastical domination as much as Turkish political oppression.

The dark centuries of Ottoman domination left the region's Slavs backward, illiterate, and unsure of their ethnic identity. After more than four centuries of rule, Ottoman power in the region began to wane, and by the middle of the 19th century, Greece, Bulgaria, and Serbia were competing for influence in the territory. In the nineteenth century, the Bulgars achieved renewed national self-awareness, which influenced events in Macedonia. The sultan granted the Bulgars ecclesiastical autonomy in 1870, creating an independent Bulgarian Orthodox Church. Nationalist Bulgarian clergymen and teachers soon founded schools in Macedonia. Bulgarian activities in Macedonia alarmed the Serbian and Greek governments and churches, and a bitter rivalry arose over Macedonia among church factions and advocates of a Greater Bulgaria, Greater Serbia, and Greater Greece.

In the nineteenth century, Bulgarian, Serbian, and Greek clergymen established church schools in the region and worked to spread their respective national ideologies through education. Families often compromised by sending one child to each type of school, and whole villages frequently passed through several phases of religious and national reorientation.

Bulgaria remained concerned with the status of Macedonia. Ever since 1878, when Bulgaria won freedom from the Turks, she sought to free her people in Macedonia and Thrace from foreign domination. The 1878 RussoTurkish War drove the Turks from Bulgarian-populated lands, and the Treaty of San Stefano (1878) created a large autonomous Bulgaria [as a means to counter Austria-Hungary] that included Macedonia. Four months later at the Congress of Berlin (1878), Macedonia was ceded back to the Ottomans, leaving the embittered Bulgars with a much-diminished state. Macedonia remained under Ottoman Turkish rule until 1912.

During this time, a nationalist movement emerged and grew in Macedonia. The Bulgarian-Greek-Serbian rivalry for Macedonia escalated in the 1890s, and nationalistic secret societies proliferated. Macedonian refugees in Bulgaria founded the Supreme Committee for Liberation of Macedonia, which favored Bulgarian annexation and recruited its own military force to confront Turkish units and rival nationalist groups in Macedonia. In 1896 Macedonians founded the International Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO), whose two main factions divided the region into military districts, collected taxes, drafted recruits, and used tactics of propaganda and terrorism.

The latter half of the 19th century, and continuing into the early part of the 20th century, was marked by sporadic nationalist uprisings, culminating in the Ilinden Uprising of August 2, 1903. Macedonian revolutionaries liberated the town of Krushevo and established of the fabled [and short-lived] democratic commune of the Krusevo Republic. The Republic of Krushevo was put down by Ottoman forces. Fewer than 30,000 rebels held off a formidable Turkish force of 300,000 in an act of defiance against the Ottoman Empire. Although the "republic" lasted only two months and ended in defeat, its significance is recounted in Macedonia'spresent constitution.

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Page last modified: 20-11-2012 16:22:32 ZULU