Macedonia, region, Europe: Modern History

Modern History

A secret terrorist organization working for Macedonian independence sprang up in the late 19th cent. and soon wielded great power. The komitadjis, as the terrorist bands were called, were generally supported by Bulgaria, which gained a major share of Macedonia in the first of the Balkan Wars (1912–13). Greece and Serbia turned against Bulgaria in the Second Balkan War, and the Treaty of Bucharest (1913) left Bulgaria only a small share of Macedonia, the rest of which was divided roughly along the present lines. Thousands of Macedonians fled to Bulgaria.

In World War I the Salonica (present-day Thessaloníki) campaigns took place in Macedonia. After the war Macedonia became a hotbed of agitation and terrorism, directed largely from Bulgaria. The population exchange among Greece, Turkey, and Bulgaria after 1923 resulted in the replacement by Greek refugees from Asia Minor of most of the Slavic and Turkish elements in Greek Macedonia. Charging that the Greek minority in Bulgarian Macedonia was being mistreated, Greece in 1925 invaded Bulgaria. The League of Nations, however, forced a cession of hostilities and awarded (1926) a decision favorable to Bulgaria.

Bulgarian relations with Yugoslavia (before 1929 the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes) remained strained over the Macedonian question. Frontier incidents were frequent, as were Yugoslav charges against Bulgaria for fostering the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO), a nationalist group that used violence, in Yugoslavia. Macedonian agitation against Serbian rule culminated (1934) in the assassination of King Alexander of Yugoslavia by a Macedonian nationalist at Marseilles.

In World War II all Macedonia was occupied (1941–44) by Bulgaria, which sided with the Axis against Yugoslavia and Greece. The Bulgarian armistice treaty of 1944 restored the prewar boundaries, which were confirmed in the peace treaty of 1947. The Yugoslav constitution of 1946 made Yugoslav Macedonia an autonomous unit in a federal state, and the Macedonian people were recognized as a separate nationality.

Tension over Macedonia continued in the early postwar years. During the Greek civil war there was much conflict between Greece and Yugoslavia over Macedonia, and the breach between Yugoslavia and Bulgaria after 1948 helped to make the Macedonian question explosive. However, with the settlement of the civil war and with the easing of Yugoslav-Bulgarian relations after 1962, tension over Macedonia was reduced. In 1990, Yugoslav Macedonia elected its first non-Communist government and the following year the Republic of Macedonia was born. Greek refusal to recognize the new nation's use of the name Macedonia ultimately led to an agreement between the two nations in 2018 that resulted (2019) in the renaming of Macedonia as North Macedonia.

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