The South Slav Federation and the Macedonian Question

Georgi Dimitrov

Dimitrov’s account of the history of the South Slav Federation and the Macedonian question which formed part of his classic report to the 5th Congress of the Bulgarian Communist Party in 1948 is important as it represents the application of the Marxist principle of constructing federative states based on the right of nations to secession along the lines of the formation of the Soviet Union itself, a principle which had been adopted by the CPC, the Indo-Chinese communists and our very own CPI in their revolutionary days. Writing shortly after the previous article Dimitrov tells us of the effects of the nationalist course of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia on the national question particularly with reference to the Pirin district of Macedonia which lay within the territory of new democratic Bulgaria. This history is virtually unknown in the communist movement today principally because Dimitrov’s writings on this as on many important questions have been sought to be obliterated after the advent of revisionism in Bulgaria. This is apparent from the version of the report to the 5th Congress of the BCP which was published in volume 14 of Dimitrov’s writings in Bulgarian which omits the passages published below.1 The same is the case in the editions of Dimitrov’s writings which have been published in English.2 Dimitrov’s perceptiveness on the national question in the Balkans emerges in its full clarity today when German and U.S. imperialism have smashed the Yugoslav Federation:

‘In the past, the unification of the South Slavs has always met with the stubborn resistance of German imperialism. Today the new pretenders for world domination – the American and British imperialists – oppose unification and merger of the Southern Slavs.’

The Marxist-Leninist forces which are regrouping today in the Balkans will no doubt be compelled to return to the principles of Lenin, Stalin and Dimitrov on the national question.


1. Georgi Dimitrov, ‘S'chineniya’, Volume 14, mart 1948-yuni 1949, Izdatelstvo na B'lgarskata Komunisticheska Partiya, Sofia, 1955, p.312.

2. Georgi Dimitrov, ‘Selected Works’, Volume 3, Sofia, 1972, p. 328.

Vijay Singh

Fraternal Yugoslavia, with whom the closest brotherly relations and a common and age-old ideal united us – the establishment of a South Slav federation – is unfortunately ruled today by men – Tito and his group – who betrayed the great doctrine of Marx-Leninism, the pre-condition for mutual confidence between the Communist parties and the basis for their cooperation on the road to socialism. The nationalist policy of the Tito group increasingly alienates Yugoslavia from the USSR and the new democracies, subjects it more and more to the danger of falling into the clutches of greedy imperialism. Our Party watches with anxiety the degeneration of the present Yugoslav Communist Party leaders into an ordinary bourgeois-chauvinist clique, inimical to Communism. But we do not doubt the loyalty of the Yugoslav Communist Party to internationalism and Marx-Leninism and its ability to bring Yugoslavia back again into the fold of the USSR and the people’s democracies....

The treachery of Tito’s group towards the USSR and the united democratic anti-imperialist camp, its anti-Marxist and nationalistic course, condemned by the Informburo, by all Communist parties and all genuine democratic organizations, found expression in its attitude toward the federation of the Southern Slavs and the Macedonian question.

With the overthrow of the Fascist dictatorship in Bulgaria on September 9th 1944, and the establishment in Bulgaria and Yugoslavia of a people’s democratic regime under the leaders of the Communist parties, most propitious conditions were created for a consistent and democratic settlement of all outstanding issues between the two countries, including the Macedonian question.

Under the newly created domestic and international conditions, the vital interests of the Bulgarian and Yugoslav peoples made it imperative that both nations seek the closest rapprochement which would quickly lead to their economic and political unification – to the establishment of a federation of South Slavs. Such a federation, resting firmly on friendship with the USSR and fraternal collaboration with the other new democracies, could have successfully defended the freedom and independence of its peoples and ensured their proper development toward socialism. Within the framework of such a federation would have been solved correctly, all the old unsolved problems legated by the bourgeois-monarchic regimes regarding the unification of the Macedonians from the Pirin district with the People’s Republic of Macedonia, as well as the return to Bulgaria of the purely Bulgarian Western Border Region which the Yugoslavia of King Alexander had grabbed after World War I.

Our Party firmly chose that course, relying on the word of the Yugoslav Communists to whom we were tied by common work and association covering a period of many years. This is the present stand of our Party. But the nationalist leaders of Yugoslavia went off this only correct path. After the two Governments had agreed on a series of measures regarding the forthcoming establishment of the federation, the Central Committee of the Yugoslav Communist Party informed our Party in March 1948 that it had changed its mind on that question, that one should not rush the federation, and refused to discuss the matter any further. At the same time, the Yugoslav leaders set as the central task the transformation of the Pirin district into an autonomous region with a view to its inclusion in Yugoslavia, independently of the existing understanding on the creation of a federation.

Evidently this turn-about of Tito and his group on the question is intimately tied up with their betrayal of Marx-Leninism. This group is skidding down the slippery road of nationalism and today takes the same stand as the Greater Serbia chauvinists who were striving for hegemony in the Balkans and for Macedonia’s annexation to Serbia and Yugoslavia.

The disclosures made at the Congress of the Albanian Communists in regard to the aggressive intentions of the Tito group toward Albania are another proof of its double-faced policy, crass nationalism and deviation from the united Socialist front of the Soviet Union and the people’s democracies.

There exist two alternatives for the solution of the Macedonian question which for decades on end has been in the centre of Balkan rivalries and wars.

1) A democratic revolution for Macedonia’s liberation from the Turkish yoke. This road was chosen by the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO) – Gotse Delchev, Sandansky and others – as well as by the Macedonian revolutionary Social-Democrat Union – Hadji Diniov, Nicola Larez and others. These Macedonian organizations enjoyed the full support of our Party, many of whose members were activists in the Macedonian revolutionary movement.

2) The bourgeois nationalist road, viz. the liberation of Macedonia from the Turkish yoke through a war, and its annexation by one or several Balkan states. Our Party has always firmly opposed military-bourgeois nationalism and has fought steadfastly against the plans of the Balkan monarchies and the bourgeois-capitalist cliques to enslave and carve up Macedonia.

The second alternative prevailed, leading to the two Balkan wars (1912-13). Macedonia was freed from the Turkish yoke, but carved up between Serbia, Greece and Bulgaria.

In the face of the growing danger of an imperialist aggression on the Balkans, the Balkan Socialist parties raised the slogan of a Balkan democratic federation. United in a mighty federation, the Balkan peoples could have defended more easily their freedom and independence against any aggressive moves by the imperialist forces. At the same time, the federation would have facilitated the solution of all pending national issues in the Balkans including that of Macedonia. Within a Balkan democratic federation, trisected Macedonia was to unite as a state with equal rights.

Our Party correctly bracketed the solution of the Macedonian question with the creation of a Balkan democratic federation. That is why it has waged a long, consistent and uncompromising fight against Greater Bulgarian chauvinism. It adhered to that position during the Balkan wars and World War I.

What is the essence of the Greater Bulgarian chauvinism of the Bulgarian monarchist and capitalist bourgeoisie?

It consists, first, of an attempt to gain hegemony in the Balkans and, second, of an attempt to forcibly incorporate Macedonia into the Bulgarian state. This policy, which during World War II was carried out under the overlordship of Nazi Germany, was in fact a treacherous policy, concealing the attempts of Nazi Germany to turn so-called ‘Great Bulgaria’ into a German colony.

After the October Socialist Revolution and the accession of the Balkan Socialist parties to the Communist International, the Balkan Socialist Federation became a Balkan Communist Federation, in which our Party played a very active role. The Balkan Communist Federation saw the solution of all Balkan problems, including that of Macedonia, in the creation of a Balkan democratic federation, capable of defending the freedom and independence of all Balkan peoples.

Our Party had thus taken a correct and traditional stand on the Balkan questions and also offered a truly democratic solution of the Macedonian question. The slogan for a Balkan federative republic was in complete harmony with the Marx-Leninist doctrine on the national problem.

"The conscious workers in the Balkan countries", wrote Lenin in 1912, ‘were the first to raise the slogan for a consistently democratic solution of the national problem on the Balkans. It was the slogan of a federative Balkan republic. As a result of the weakness of the democratic classes in the present Balkan states (where the proletariat is numerically small and the peasantry backward, illiterate and disunited) the economically and politically necessary union became an alliance of Balkan monarchs’.

Prior to World War II there had grown up a powerful progressive Macedonian movement in Bulgaria which advocated the right of self-determination of the Macedonian people, as a free nation. It was fully supported by our Party which, during the war, worked in full agreement with the Macedonian Communists. Bulgarian partisans fought shoulder to shoulder with Macedonian partisans against the German-Bulgarian troops of occupation. Our Party warmly welcomed the establishment of a Macedonian People’s Republic, within the Federative People’s Republic of Yugoslavia.

As is well known, our Party made great sacrifices in the struggle for the defence of the Macedonian people’s right to self-determination, and against the aggressive policy of the Bulgarian bourgeoisie.

After the Bled Agreement, and in order to facilitate the process of rapprochement and future unification of the Macedonian regions in both countries, our Party gave its consent to the introduction of the official Macedonian language as an obligatory subject in all schools in the Pirin district, and admitted many Macedonian teachers from Skopie as instructors, as well as Macedonian librarians to diffuse Macedonian books. This was a proof that our Party harboured the greatest sympathy toward the unification of the Macedonian people.

But our Party was double-crossed in its good intentions by the Belgrade and Skopie leaders. Most of the teachers and librarians sent from Skopie, evidently on instructions from their Yugoslav leaders, became agents of a Greater Yugoslav and anti-Bulgarian chauvinist propaganda, and later, after the treachery of Tito’s group toward the USSR and the united anti-imperialist camp, turned into an anti-Soviet agency.

That which the agents of Kulishevsky did in the Pirin district was only a reflection of what has happened within the People’s Republic of Macedonia. Under the pretext of a struggle against Greater Bulgaria chauvinism and with the aid of the state apparatus and all other public organizations – political and cultural – a systematic campaign was waged against everything Bulgarian, against the Bulgarian people, their culture, their people’s democracy, their Fatherland Front and especially against our Party. No Bulgarian books or newspapers, not even ‘Rabotnichesko Delo’, were permitted into the People’s Republic of Macedonia. All Bulgarian inscriptions on old school buildings and other monuments were meticulously erased. Family names, as for instance Kulishev, Uzunov, Tsvetkov and others, became, as we know, Kulishevsky, Uztunovsky, Tsvetkovsky, so that they would have nothing in common with Bulgarian names.

Public officials in the Macedonian People’s Republic had the cheek to make declarations directed against the Bulgarian people and against Bulgaria. In his well-known speech, delivered on March 23rd 1948 before the 2nd Congress of the Macedonian People’s Front, Kulishevsky slanderously accused our country and our people’s authority of oppressing the Macedonian population in the Pirin district.

Kulishevsky’s provocatory speech was avidly reproduced by the newspapers, agencies and radios of the Anglo-American imperialists in order to launch a scurrilous campaign against the People’s Republic of Bulgaria and the unification of the Macedonian people.

Last July, from the tribune of the 5th Congress of the Yugoslav Communist Party in Belgrade, the main darts in the attacks against the people’s democracies were directed against our nation. In their speeches Tito, Djilas, Tempo, Kulishevsky, and Vlahov spluttered out their chauvinist venom against Bulgaria, against our Party, whose fault, it seems, consists of its refusal to let them grab the Pirin district and its condemnation of the Yugoslav leaders’ treason. General Tempo went even so far in his chauvinist delusion as to insult and deride the anti-Fascist struggle of the Bulgarian people and their partisan movement, although it is well-known that our partisans fought together with Yugoslav partisans and that our army actively participated under the command of Marshal Tolbukhin in the war for the final liberation of Yugoslavia.

Toward the end of September 1948 the Prime Minister of the Serbian People’s Republic, Peter Stambolich had the effrontery to publicly slander our country in the Belgrade Skupstina, alleging that responsible Bulgarian politicians were spreading propaganda directed against Yugoslavia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.

It is clear that such slanders can have only one aim: to antagonize the peoples of Yugoslavia against the Bulgarian people, to create a chasm between the two fraternal peoples and to furnish imperialist propaganda with a weapon with which to heap new lies and slanders on Bulgaria.

Late in November 1948 a trial was held in Skopie against Bulgarian Fascists, police agents and other war criminals, who during the occupation had indulged in excesses in Macedonia. This trial, however, was turned into a vicious chauvinist campaign against the Bulgarian people and against our country. The prosecutor, the judges and the accused Fascist criminals in this trial, according to a pre-arranged understanding, with touching unanimity cast aspersions on the Bulgarian people.

The nationalist and chauvinist policy of the Titos and Kulishevskys, which is the other side of the coin of their anti-Soviet course, is not only directed against Bulgaria and the Bulgarian people but also against the Macedonian people. This policy has adopted the methods of the Bulgarian and Serbian nationalists and is sowing hatred among the Macedonian people, inciting one part against the other, resorting to terror and persecution against those who disapprove of the official course of the present Yugoslav leaders. In this way the realization of the age-old ideal of the Macedonian people – their national unification – is being artificially delayed.

The population of the Pirin district, however, refuses to fall for this vicious anti-Bulgarian and dissident propaganda. It is opposed to the inclusion of its land into Yugoslavia before the realization of a federation between Yugoslavia and Bulgaria, because since time immemorial it feels itself economically, politically, and culturally tied to the Bulgarian people and does not wish to cut loose from it. Besides, among that population are still alive the traditions of the Macedonian revolutionary movement and, in particular, of its Seres wing, headed by Sandansky, which has always advocated federation as the only correct solution of the Macedonian question.

We are well aware that the nationalist and chauvinist policy of the Belgrade and Skopie leaders of the Tito and Kulishevsky type do not have the approval of the majority of the Macedonian people who are convinced that their national unification will be built on an understanding between Yugoslavia and Bulgaria, in cooperation with these peoples and with the powerful assistance of the USSR.

Our Party has always advocated and continues to advocate, that Macedonia belongs to the Macedonians. True to the traditions of the Macedonian revolutionaries, together with all honest Macedonian patriots, we are deeply convinced that the Macedonian people will translate into reality their national unity and will ensure their future as a free nation with equal rights only within the framework of a federation of Southern Slavs.

In the past, the unification of the South Slavs has always met with the stubborn resistance of German imperialism. Today the new pretenders for world domination – the American and British imperialists – oppose the unification and merger of the Southern Slavs. They have acquired worthy allies in the present Yugoslav leaders.

Assured of the support of the USSR, the new democracies and the world forces of democracy, the Southern Slavs will be able to smash the opposition of the imperialists and realize their vitally necessary unity. The main obstacle to the federation of the Southern Slavs are today the traitors to Marx-Leninism, the nationalist leadership in Belgrade and Skopie, the Titos, Djilases, Kulishevskys, Vlahovs. But history is marching on and sweeps aside everything which stands in the way of progress. The cause of the unification of the Southern Slavs, including the Macedonian people, will triumph.

‘Political Report Delivered to the V Congress of the Bulgarian Communist Party’ (December 19th, 1948), Sofia, 1949, p. 62, pp. 64-70.

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