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News 05 Jun 17

Bulgarian Defence Minister Heads 'Macedonia Day' Events

Bulgaria’s nationalist defence minister and deputy PM Krasimir Karakachanov was the patron of events commemorating those who died fighting for Bulgarian territory in Macedonia and Greece in the early 20th century.

Mariya Cheresheva
 Monument in Sofia to revolutionaries from acedonia and Thrace. Photo: VMRO.

A series of events was held on Monday to mark the Day of Macedonia and the Fallen Bulgarian Heroes on Monday, held for the first time under the patronage of defence minister and deputy prime minister Krasimir Karakachanov.

The programme included the paying of respects at the monument in Sofia to Bulgarian revolutionaries from the regions of Macedonia and Thrace and prayers for those who died fighting for the liberation and unity of what was Bulgarian land.

The commemorations were organised by the Macedonian Scientific Institute, founded in 1923 by a group of Macedonian-born Bulgarian intellectuals.

In an official address read out at a conference held by the Macedonian Scientific Institute on Monday, Karakachanov, who is also a member of the Institute, called on Bulgarians not to “forget the truth and the ideals of the heroes who fell for Macedonia”.

After achieving independence from the Ottoman Empire, between 1912 and 1918 Bulgaria took part in three wars – the two Balkan Wars and World War I - with the aim of uniting its former territories in what are now Greece and Macedonia.

But the outcomes of the Second Balkan War and the First World War, which Bulgaria classifies as a national catastrophe, led to the country losing territories in the Aegean and Vardar Macedonia which were occupied by Greece and Serbia.

Many ethnic Bulgarian schools and churches were closed and over 100,000 Bulgarians fled the territories to Bulgaria as refugees.

The nationalist VMRO party, which is led by Karakachanov, has adopted the so-called ‘Macedonian question’ as part of its political doctrine.

Karakachanov has been one of the strongest voices in Bulgarian nationalism since the fall of the communist regime in 1989 and is the author of several books about Macedonia, to which nationalists lay claim.

Bulgaria and Macedonia have very different views of their history, which has strained relations between the two countries.

While Bulgaria, unlike Greece, recognises its neighbour under its constitutional name, the Republic of Macedonia, it is reluctant to recognise the existence of a Macedonian language, separate from Bulgarian, and many Bulgarian historians still maintain that Macedonians are ethnic Bulgarians.

There were no immediate reactions to Monday’s commemorations from the authorities in Skopje, although the events appeared likely to cause irritation among Macedonians.

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