by Elizabeth Shostak
The Republic of Macedonia is a country slightly larger than the state of Vermont and measures 25,333 square kilometers. Located on the Balkan Peninsula in southeastern Europe, Macedonia is bordered on the north by Yugoslavia, on the south by Greece, on the west by Bulgaria, and on the east by Albania. It is a landlocked and mountainous country, and only about four percent of its land is suitable for crops. The region experiences a high rate of seismic activity, making it susceptible to earthquake damage. It has few natural resources other than mineral deposits. Macedonians have traditionally made their living from farming, herding, and mining.
Macedonia's population is estimated at approximately 2,194,000 and is comprised of a mix of ethnic groups. Sixty-seven percent are identified as ethnic Macedonians. Albanians make up the largest minority, with 21 percent of the population, and small Turkish and Serbian populations are also represented. The majority of Macedonians, 59 percent, belong to the Eastern Orthodox Church, while 26 percent are Muslims. Small Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish communities are also present. Eight languages are spoken in Macedonia. The official language, Macedonian, is spoken by 70 percent of the population. Twenty-one percent speak Albanian, three percent speak Turkish, and three percent speak Serbo-Croatian. Smaller numbers speak Adyghe, Romanian, Romani, and Balakan Gagauz Turkish. The capital of Macedonia is Skopje (SKOHP-yeh). The Macedonian flag consists of a 16-point gold sun centered on a red field.
The Republic of Macedonia was created in 1991 when the country obtained independence from Yugoslavia. But Macedonian history is long and complex. The Macedonians are a Slavic people, with close ethnic and linguistic ties to Bulgaria, as well as political and church ties to Greece. The earliest civilizations in the Macedonian region have been traced back to at least 3500 B.C. , and by about 1000 B.C. , several population groups, including Dacians, Thracians, Illyrians, Celts, and Greeks, coexisted in the area. Macedonia had perhaps its greatest period of political power during the fourth century B.C. , when King Philip of Macedon and his son, Alexander the Great, strengthened and expanded the Macedonian empire. By 29 A.D. , however, Rome had subdued the region and ruled it for several centuries. The Romans incorporated Macedonia into their Eastern Empire, controlled by Constantinople. Beginning in the third century A.D. , tribes of Goths, Huns, and Avars invaded the region. By about the middle of the sixth century, Slavic peoples began to settle in Macedonia. A century later, Bulgars, a Turco-Ugrian people of remote Mongolian origin, invaded and were assimilated by the Slavs. The Bulgars established the First Bulgarian Kingdom, which included much of Macedonia's territory. During the ninth century A.D. , future saints Cyril and Methodius brought Christianity to the region. Their disciples devised a Slavic alphabet (the Cyrillic alphabet that is also used in Russian) in order to promote literacy in the vernacular.
In the tenth century, the Bulgarian Kingdom split into two. The western kingdom, with its capital in Ohrid, is considered the first Slavic Macedonian state. It was ruled by Tsar Samuil (997-1014) but was conquered by the Byzantine Empire in 1018. Except for a brief period of Serbian control under Stefan Dusan (1331-55), Macedonia remained under Ottoman rule until 1912. This long period of Turkish control was considered the most stable in Macedonian history, and deeply influenced language and social traditions throughout the Balkan region. At the same time, however, Ottoman rule was harsh and authoritarian, and fueled increasing dissent from the subjected population. In 1876, the Bulgarians staged an armed revolt against the Turks, which was brutally subdued and resulted in an indiscriminate massacre of civilians. From that time, intense anti-Turkish sentiment continued, and the region became increasingly destabilized.
The early twentieth century was a period of intense conflict and volatility throughout the Balkans as various states competed for power. When the Ottoman Empire began to dissolve at the end of the nineteenth century, Serbia, Greece, and Bulgaria all sought cultural and territorial claims over Macedonia. In response to these threats, Macedonians organized the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO) in 1893. IMRO's aim was to preserve "Macedonia for the Macedonians," and on August 2, 1903, it proclaimed independence from the Turks. Though this rebellion was harshly suppressed, it made the "Macedonian Question" an international concern for several years. In 1912, Serbia, Montenegro, Greece, and Bulgaria successfully united in the First Balkan War to eject the Turks from Europe, after which the competing states sought to strengthen their claims to Macedonia. The Serbian army occupied Skopje and claimed "Vardar Macedonia" as a Serbian colony. The Greek army occupied Salonika, which it deemed part of "Aegean Macedonia," virtually excluding Bulgaria from the region. The occupying forces instituted harsh campaigns to force the population to renounce its Macedonian identity. They encouraged Serbian and Greek colonists to move to these regions, suppressed the Macedonian language, and forced priests to convert to the Greek or Serbian Orthodox religions.
Bulgaria's loss of Macedonia precipitated decades of conflict and violence, which arguably contributed to the ethnic hostilities that resurfaced in the Balkans during the 1990s. After a surprise attack on Serbian forces in Macedonia in 1913, which initiated the Second Balkan War, Bulgaria was again defeated and stripped of its claims to Macedonian territory. Despite alliances with Germany in both the First and Second World Wars, during which Macedonia suffered brutal invasions and "Bulgarization" campaigns, Bulgaria was unable to reestablish its hold on Macedonia. In 1945, the new Federal Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia, controlled by a Communist party actively sympathetic to the Macedonian cause, created a People's Republic of Macedonia. This region, which incorporated the boundaries of the later independent republic, was a semi-autonomous constituent republic within the Yugoslav federation. The Communist party encouraged the renewal of Macedonian cultural life, promoting the Macedonian language and restoring the Macedonian Orthodox Church.
After the Yugoslav federation broke up in 1989, Macedonia declared independence on November 20, 1991. A new constitution went into effect that day, and Kiro Gligorov was elected president. Ethnic and political discord, however, remained. Greece, which has a province called Macedonia in its northern region, objected to the country's use of that name. Bulgaria, which has a significant Macedonian minority population, has also historically objected to the idea of an independent Macedonian nation.
Although Macedonian immigration to the United States did not truly begin until the early twentieth century, there is evidence to suggest that the first Macedonian to arrive in America, Dragan of Ohrid, sailed with Christopher Columbus. There are different accounts of Dragan. One story claims he was a religious heretic who escaped persecution in Macedonia by fleeing to Spain. He was later discovered, however, and condemned to death. Columbus saved Dragan from burning at the stake by recruiting him for his first trip to America. Another account claims that Dragan was expelled from Ohrid with his family when he was a child, after the city fell to the Turks. The family moved to Spain, where Dragan advanced in the military, became a favorite of the crown, and sailed with Columbus on his second voyage. According to this story, after Dragan returned to Europe he formed his own expedition and sailed with this crew to Venezuela. Seeing that the native people there lived along the water in marshy areas, as in Venice, he bestowed the name "Venezia" on the land. He then went to Panama, allegedly becoming the first white man to set foot in that country.
Macedonian immigration to the United States began in the early twentieth century, as poverty forced many peasants to seek economic opportunities abroad. Most of these early immigrants considered themselves Bulgarians from Macedonia, and entry records from the period usually listed them as Bulgarian, Turkish, Serbian, Albanian, or Greek nationals. For this reason, it is difficult to determine precise numbers of Macedonian immigrants. It is estimated, however, that between 1903 and 1906, approximately 50,000 Macedonian Bulgarians entered the United States. From 1906 to the outbreak of the Balkan Wars and World War I, a few thousand more arrived. The first Macedonian immigrants came primarily from the western parts of Macedonia, near the towns of Kastoria, Florina, and Bitola. About 80 percent of these immigrants were peasants, with small craftsmen, workers, and intellectuals making up the remainder. The vast majority of early Macedonian immigrants were gurbetchii or pechalbari, single men driven by poverty to seek their fortunes in America, but who expected to return to their homeland after a few years.
American Protestant churches played a notable role in Macedonian immigration. Congregational and Methodist churches began missionary activities in the Balkans in the 1860s and 1870s, and sent many Bulgarians and Macedonians to the United States to attend college. When these individuals returned, they spoke highly of their experiences in America. In addition, the churches established numerous schools in Balkan cities and towns. These activities created a positive image of America and prompted interest in immigration.
After World War I, many Macedonians in America returned to Europe, with only about 20,000 Macedonians remaining in the United States. Further immigration was seriously affected by passage of the Immigration Act of 1924 (the Johnson-Reed Act), which established quotas for each national group based on their numbers in the American population in 1920. Because Macedonian immigration had begun so late, and because many immigrants had returned to their homeland, the basis for the Macedonian quota was extremely low. Nevertheless, though new immigration was much slower during the period between the world wars, Macedonians continued to enter the United States. Many arrived via Canada, crossing the border into Detroit to evade quota restrictions. During this period, increasing numbers of Macedonians also arrived from Greece. By 1945, the number of Macedonians in the United States had reached an estimated 50,000 to 60,000 people.
When the Yugoslav Federation was created after World War II, however, Macedonian immigration slowed significantly. Yugoslavia's support of Macedonian autonomy, as well as economic improvements in Macedonia, encouraged Macedonians to remain there. From 1945 to 1960, only about 2,000 Macedonians arrived in the United States from Yugoslavia. During the 1960s and 1970s, however, after emigration policies were liberalized, as many as 40,000 Macedonians left Yugoslavia for Canada, Australia, and the United States. Few from Bulgaria, however, were allowed to leave. As many as 70,000 Macedonians living in Greece left that country after World War II, when Slavs were expelled from the area. Many settled in Canada, where the Macedonian community in Toronto grew to more than 100,000. Smaller numbers moved to Australia and the United States.
During the 1990s, Macedonian immigration again increased. Newcomers followed the same settlement patterns of earlier immigrants, settling in large urban centers in the Midwest. Like earlier generations, most came to take advantage of economic opportunities. Others entered the United States to enroll in colleges and universities. The 1990 U.S. census listed the number of Macedonian Americans as 20,365 but that figure almost certainly under represents the actual population.
Though a small proportion of Macedonians who came to the United States from Yugoslavia in the 1950s and 1960s were political dissidents, the majority of Macedonian immigrants were compelled by economic motives. Early Macedonian immigrants from Bulgaria settled in America's northern and eastern industrial centers, especially in the Midwest, where they were able to find unskilled jobs in heavy industries. A large community sprang up in Detroit, which numbered from as many as 15,000 to 20,000 Macedonian Americans by the 1980s. Macedonians also settled in large numbers in Gary, Indiana, Chicago, Illinois, and the Ohio cities of Columbus, Akron, Lorain, Cincinnati, Canton, and Massilon. Other communities were established in Passaic, New Jersey and in New York City, Lackawanna, Buffalo, Rochester, and Syracuse, New York.
Adjusting to industrial jobs and a competitive economic setting was often difficult for Macedonian immigrants, who had come from relatively poor rural areas dominated by an authoritative political regime. Upon their arrival in the United States, they often took hazardous jobs in mines, steel mills and foundries, and railroad construction. Since most immigrants were single men, residents from the same village or region in their homeland tended to stay together in America for social support. Coffee houses and boarding houses became important places where immigrants could socialize and share job prospects, read newspapers and discuss politics, and participate in their associations. Where Macedonians were few in number, they often associated with other Slavic or Orthodox communities.
Macedonian immigrants established fraternal, mutual aid, and cultural societies in America that offered assistance when members lost their jobs or became ill. These societies were organized according to place of origin, and often sent material aid back to their respective villages in Macedonia. The Orthodox Church also served as an important cohesive presence.
The first Macedonian immigrants endured poverty and harsh working conditions when they first arrived in the United States. Many received daily wages below $2.50, and lived in crowded and unhealthy conditions in large cities. It was customary for several men from the same village in Macedonia to share a small flat or house, often without running water and electricity. Space was so limited that the men had to sleep in shifts, sharing the same bedding. Most lived extremely frugally, reluctant to spend their hard-earned money on anything except the most basic necessities so that they could more quickly save enough to return to their homeland. Though many did eventually return, a large number eagerly embraced Americanization. Some Anglicized their surnames and severed all ties with Macedonia. Others, however, developed identities tied to both their new American homes and their native traditions.
Much about American life was exciting or even shocking to Macedonian immigrants, who had come from a very isolated and impoverished area. Electricity, telephones, and other modern inventions amazed them. However, the large buildings, crowded conditions, pollution, and frantic pace of industrialized cities often demoralized them. In his memoir, The Eagle and the Stork: An American Memoir, Macedonian immigrant Stoyan Christowe described the profound disappointment and alienation his uncle and his father found in the factory work and anonymity of the city: "My uncle was here only with his body. His mind, his heart, his whole being were back in the homeland where life had meaning for him, where life was rooted in decency and dignity. The man he worked for there was his host and not his boss. That was because he was building him a house to live in, or a barrel to keep his wine in, or a wedding chest for his daughter. He could sit down with him for a glass of brandy or a cup of Turkish coffee. This America was boring into his life like a worm into the core of an apple, hollowing out the soundness, the meaning."
For other immigrants, however, American offered opportunities they were eager to exploit. Christowe himself avidly learned English and sought an education, and others were able to establish themselves in better-paying jobs as they increased their job skills and experience. Younger generations of Macedonian Americans have become fully integrated into the mainstream American culture.
Many Macedonian customs and traditions were associated with religious holidays, pre-Christian beliefs, or were tied to the agricultural cycle. Making and jumping over bonfires, a practice that probably originated in pagan times, was often incorporated into the celebration of Christian holidays. On festive occasions throughout the year, villagers would visit their neighbors to wish them good luck, health, and prosperity. On the Eve of St. John (midsummer's day), it was customary to tell omens. Bulgarian and Macedonian housewives observed several customs to ensure prosperity and to keep their homes free of dangers. For example, they used cakes to rid their homes of evil spirits. On Mice Day, October 27, they would spread mud over the threshold and hearth to "muddle over" the mice's eyes, preventing them from seeing food stored in the house. During Wolf Days in November, women would tie their scissors shut to keep wolves from opening their mouths and would refuse to sew any clothes for their husbands to keep them from turning into werewolves. On November 30, St. Andrew's Day, women cooked wheat, lentils, and beans to keep bears away.
Traditional Macedonian foods reflect both the region's indigenous crops and its ethnically mixed history. Ingredients such as feta cheese, yogurt, peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, and eggplant are commonly used. Food is often flavored with paprika, lemon juice, garlic, or vinegar. When meat is served, it is usually lamb or mutton. Seasonal fruits such as sour cherries, plums, quinces, and grapes are made into thick jam ( slatko ), which is traditionally served to visitors and eaten from a glass jar with a spoon. Milk is used to make a rich cheese-like appetizer, kajmak, or is fermented into yogurt. There are several versions of pindzhur, a traditional Macedonian vegetable dish made from tomatoes, green peppers, and eggplant. It is usually either baked or stirfried, and served with feta cheese and fresh bread. Tarator is a cucumber salad seasoned with yogurt, vinegar, and garlic, and sometimes garnished with walnuts. Other traditional dishes include stuffed peppers ( polneti piperki ), stuffed grape leaves ( sarma od lozov list ), and mousaka ( musaka ), a casserole of meat, eggplant, and rice bound with a custard sauce. A popular item at barbecues is kjebapchinja, a seasoned mixture of beef or veal and lamb that is grilled and served with scallions, tomatoes, and hot peppers. Also served is muchkalica, seasoned mutton grilled on skewers. Festive occasions call for special baked goods such as baklava, a honey-dipped layered pastry often filled with ground walnuts, and burek, a yeast pastry filled with feta cheese. Macedonians also enjoy Turkish coffee ( Tursko Kafe ), a legacy from centuries of Turkish rule.
Macedonian folk music combines influences from several ethnic traditions. Centuries of Ottoman rule brought to Macedonian music a distinctly eastern tone and style, which was further enhanced by the significant contributions of Gypsy (Rom) musicians. A notable legacy from the Turks was the introduction in the nineteenth century of brass bands, which Macedonian and Gypsy musicians adapted to their own musical traditions. The popularity of brass bands waned in the late twentieth century, however, as Macedonian nationalism gained momentum.
Macedonian folk songs were to be played or sung by shepherds in their fields, and are distinguished by very slow introductory parts and sections of intricate improvisations known as trepaza. These variations are thought to resemble the several courses of a grand feast, in which many flavors are mingled in one meal. Their melodies show an eastern influence which ethnic musicologists have linked to the ancient oboe technique of circular, continuous breathing. Instruments commonly used in Macedonian music include the zurla, an ancient folk oboe similar to those used in Turkey, Central Asia, and Northern Africa, and the kaval, a vertical flute. One of the region's most characteristic instruments is the gaida, or Bulgarian bagpipe, which is often used as a solo instrument but is also sometimes accompanied by the dumbek, a hand-held drum. The tambura, a pear-shaped stringed instrument, is similar to the Bulgarian gadulka, and has been compared in tone to the American banjo. The clarinet and the accordion are also popular instruments.
Costumes worn for ceremonial occasions in Macedonia are often heavily embroidered and very colorful. The Valley Bridal Dress worn in the Prilep region is dominated by red and bright yellow, while the Bitola Valley Dress is mostly yellow and black. According to an article in James Nicoloff's Macedonia, the Prilep dress is heavily ornamented with embroidery and metal and bead ornaments. It consists of a smock ( golema ) which is almost completely covered with embroidered circles on the sleeves and with stylized blossom and horseshoe patterns on the front and the border of the skirt. Knitted multi-colored cuffs are worn on the lower arms. An embroidered cotton upper garment, the valanka, is embellished with tufted fringes and braid along the seams. The chulter, an intricately woven apron, is worn below the black wool girdle or belt. In back, the potkolchelniche, trimmed with beads and old silver coins, is worn beneath the girdle. Scarves and a necklace, both trimmed with old coins, are also worn. On the head is placed a fes, ornamented with rows of silver coins that hang down beside the face. A garland of spruce is placed above the fes . A hair decoration, the kocelj, is made from twisted woolen yarn and hangs down from the shoulders. Flame-colored stockings and homemade slippers complete the costume.
The corresponding men's dress consists of the aba, an undershirt made of hand-woven wool, a long linen smock with embroidered sleeves, front, and skirt, knitted cuffs worn on the arms below the elbow, and white broadcloth breeches. A brightlycolored girdle ( kemer ) is worn beneath a black broadcloth waistcoat, which is embellished with multicolored embroidery, buttons, and flame-colored trimmings. A distinctive black astrakhan and velvet cap is worn on the head, and white stockings, decorated garters, and cowhide slippers with straps complete the costume. Men also wear a knife ( zhrenche ) with a chain and a horn sheath as part of this traditional garb.
Many Macedonian folk songs were influenced by Gypsy (Rom) music, which was in turn affected by Macedonian traditions. A humorous song popular among Gypsy musicians but sung in Macedonian is " Da Me Molat Ne Se Zhenam " ("I Won't Get Married"). The singer laments that if he married a young girl, she would never stay home but if he married an older one she would quarrel with him. If he married a village girl, she would call him Daddy, and if he took a widow for his wife she would already have children. He decides a divorcee would leave him, and a town girl would drive him away. So he will marry no one at all. " Pesna I Devojka " ("The Song and the Girl") is also performed in Macedonian. A haunting Macedonian pastoral melody is " Aj Zajdi Zajdi Jasno Sonce, " sung to kaval accompaniment. Other traditional Macedonian songs include " Makedonsko Kevojce " ("Macedonian Girl"), " Majko Mila Moja Makedonijo, " and " Katerino. "
Balkan dances are colorful and festive. As with music and songs, they show some borrowing from Gypsy traditions. Many Macedonian dances are based on the Horo, or circle dance.
Easter is the most significant holiday in the Eastern Orthodox Church, and Macedonians in the United States continue to observe it seriously. Easter is celebrated two weeks after the Roman Catholic Easter, in accordance with the Eastern Orthodox Church's adherence to the Gregorian calendar. Macedonian American families dye eggs a deep red, to symbolize the blood of Christ, and enjoy the custom of tapping an egg against another person's to try to crack it without cracking one's own. The egg that remains intact symbolizes good luck. Christmas Day ( Bozhik ) is also important. Though the traditions of Santa Claus and Christmas trees did not exist in Macedonia, they have become a part of holiday celebrations in many Macedonian American families.
Macedonian is a South Slavic language closely related to Bulgarian. Like Russian, it is written in the Cyrillic alphabet. Unlike Russian, however, modern Macedonian does not change the endings of nouns according to their grammatical case. Standard Macedonian is based on the country's western dialects, which are the most distinct from Bulgarian and Serbo-Croatian. Northern dialects are similar to Serbian dialects, and eastern dialects are closest to Bulgarian. Macedonian has 31 sounds and a letter for each sound, making it a completely phonetic language that is easy to learn to read and write. A Macedonian-English dictionary of 50,000 words, scheduled for publication around 1999 and the largest edition to that date, reflects a strong interest in the Macedonian language among communities in English-speaking countries.
The usual Macedonian greeting is zdravo (ZDRA-vuh), or "hi." More formal greetings are dobro utro (DOE-bruh OO-troh), "good morning" or dobar den (DOE-bar DAIN), "good day." "Good night" is dobra nok (DOE-bruh NOK-yih). Kako cte ? (KAK-uh STAI) means "how are you?" and dobrodojdovte (DOE-bruh DOY-duv-tai) means "welcome."
Macedonian immigrants who chose to remain in the United States in the early 1900s often returned to their native land when it was time to marry, bringing their new brides back with them to America. Those who chose their wives in the United States often favored women of Macedonian or Bulgarian ancestry. Though marriage outside the ethnic group was tolerated, Macedonians practiced a high rate of endogamy (same-group marriage), which strengthened family and community bonds. It was not unusual for several generations of Macedonian American families to remain in the same geographic area and to maintain close personal and professional contacts. Perhaps because the Macedonian American population is relatively small, the community has organized associations and festivities, such as folk dancing, concerts, and picnics, to foster group solidarity.
Though the earliest Macedonian immigrants arrived in the United States with little or no formal education, they quickly availed themselves of new opportunities to improve their literacy skills. Political organizations such as the American Socialists were an important means of spreading literacy. They published several newspapers and magazines in Macedonian and other Slavic languages, and found an interested readership. Many immigrants eagerly studied English and went to school to learn the skills that would enable them to take full advantage of opportunities in America. Within a few generations, Macedonian Americans were attending college and universities and entering the professions.
It is a Macedonian custom to prepare a special type of fritter, called pituli, to celebrate the birth of a baby. Babies are ceremonially baptized according to the rites of the Eastern Orthodox Church.
When Macedonian women followed their husbands to the United States, they often took jobs outside the home a departure from their customary role in Europe. Women in America often worked with their husbands in family businesses. In addition, they played a central role in maintaining Macedonian culture in America. They preserved culinary traditions in their homes and were active in church groups, Sunday schools, and social organizations.
Macedonian Americans have continued to celebrate many wedding traditions from earlier generations. The night before the wedding ( kolak or kvas ) is spent feasting and dancing. The next morning, friends and family of the groom gather at his home for the groom-shaving ritual. The godparents, known as kym and kyma, ceremoniously give the groom his last shave as a single man as the guests sing, dance, and feast. During the wedding ceremony, the bride and groom, sometimes joined by their fathers, participate in the "breaking of the bread" to see who will "wear the pants" in the new household. After the wedding ceremony, the male members of the wedding party often perform the Macedonian Pig Dance at the reception. Holding bottles of wine as well as forks and knives, they dance into the reception area carrying a roasted pig. They dance, shout, and whistle in front of the kym and kyma, demanding "payment" for the feast, and continue until the pig bearer is satisfied with the amount paid.
Philip R. Tilney, Immigrant Macedonian Wedding in Ft. Wayne, (Indiana Folklore, vol. III, no. 1, 1970).
"O ne of the first customs to be lost in this country, and indeed, a custom which lost favor some years ago in Macedonia, is the arranged marriage. Match-makers (Macedonia: posturnitsi; Bulgarian: svatovnitsi), usually older women, were contacted by one of the sets of parents and it was she and she alone who completed the necessary negotiations. The bride and groom-to-be were simply not consulted."
The first groups of Macedonian Americans tended to congregate in areas where there were other Southern Slavic populations. They lived among their fellow Macedonians and Bulgarians, as well as Croats and other immigrants from the Balkan region. In areas with only small numbers of Macedonians, they tended to be most comfortable with other Orthodox Slavs. Their pan-Slavic attitudes often brought them into contact with Poles, Ukrainians, and Russians, with whom they frequently associated in left-wing political groups.
After the creation of the Republic of Macedonia in 1991, tensions escalated between Slavic and Greek Macedonians in the United States and Canada. When a Macedonian group organized a pavilion at the Toronto Carvan in 1991, the Greek pavilion boycotted the festival, claiming that the Republic of Macedonia had stolen territory from Greece. Macedonians coined the derogatory term "Gerkoman" to refer to ethnic Macedonians who considered themselves Greek instead of Slavic.
The vast majority of Macedonians who immigrated to the United States were members of the Eastern Orthodox Church, and religious affiliation played a central role in maintaining ethnic identity, language, and native traditions. Early immigrants established parishes under the jurisdiction of the patriarch (head of the church) in Sofia, Bulgaria. The first Bulgarian Orthodox church in America was Sts. Cyril and Methodius, established in Granite City, Illinois in 1909. Others included St. Stephen in Indianapolis, founded in 1915, St. Clement Ohridsky in Detroit, founded in 1929, and St. Trinity in Madison, Illinois, founded in 1929. The Bulgarian Orthodox Mission for the entire United States and Canada, which in 1937 was renamed the Bulgarian Eastern Orthodox Church, Diocese of the United States and Canada, was centered in Indianapolis. In 1962, a group of Macedonian Americans in Gary, Indiana founded a separate Macedonian Orthodox Church, which was recognized by the Holy Synod of the Macedonian Orthodox Church in Skopje. Within 20 years, 11 Macedonian Orthodox parishes had been established. By the late 1990s, 19 parishes were listed in the United States. However, Bishop Kyril, head of the Bulgarian Church in the United States and Canada, refused to recognize the Macedonian Orthodox Church, and this rift continued to cause bitter feelings between Macedonian and Bulgarian immigrant communities.
Macedonian Orthodox churches are organized under the guidance of a metropolitan (a bishop who is head of an ecclesiastical province) for the United States, Canada, and Australia. Parishes offer liturgical services in both Macedonian and English and provide a variety of social and cultural activities such as festivals, dinners, and holiday bazaars. Women's groups contribute a great deal to the church's social functions. Sunday schools, which teach the Macedonian language, are also important cultural institutions.
Like other Eastern Orthodox churches, the Macedonian Orthodox Church follows the Julian calendar, which is 13 days behind the Gregorian calendar. Orthodox sacraments and liturgy closely resemble those of the Roman Catholic Church, but in the Orthodox church, great reverence is attached to icons of Christ, the Virgin Mary, and the saints. Often, homes as well as churches have icons in a place of honor. Unlike the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox church allows married men to become priests. Orthodox churches adhere to the Nicene Creed and follow the liturgy of St. John Chrysostom (c.347-407 AD). They observe seven sacraments: the Eucharist, Baptism, Confirmation, Penance, Matrimony, Holy Orders, and the Anointing of the Sick. The Macedonian Orthodox Church also observes the ritual of Agiasmos, or Holy Water, as a means of bestowing grace upon the congregation. There are Greater and Lesser Blessings of Water. The Lesser Blessing can be performer on any day of the year, either in the church or within a home or designated space. The Greater Blessing of Water is performed on the Feast of the Epiphany (in the Julian calendar, January 19). On this day, churchgoers often take a bottle of holy water to their homes, where it is kept until the following year.
Macedonian Americans were known as hard workers in their new country. Because they often arrived with little education and limited job skills, they frequently took the most hazardous and poorly paid industrial jobs. According to George Prpic in South Slavic Immigration in America, immigrants from the Macedonian region enjoyed railroad work, which, though demanding, at least allowed them to labor under the open sky and escape the crowded conditions that beset them in the cities. For several months at a time, these workers lived together in railroad cars and ate meals prepared by their own cooks. Data from 1909 estimated that as many as 10,000 immigrants from Bulgaria and Macedonia were then working on the railroads in North and South Dakota, Montana, Iowa, and Minnesota. Among the Macedonians who sought railroad work was the future writer Stoyan Christowe, who described his living conditions as very harsh. Railroad work, however, paid a little better than some of the industrial jobs available in the cities.
By 1910, almost 15,000 Bulgarian and Macedonian immigrants worked in the steel mills near Chicago, Illinois. Living and working conditions here were, according to Prpic, extremely primitive and unsanitary. Similar communities of Balkan immigrant workers existed throughout the industrial belt. Though they did not have the skills to move immediately into more prestigious jobs, Macedonian immigrants developed a reputation as hardworking, strong, sober, intelligent, and eager workers. Often a Macedonian immigrant dreamed of saving up enough money to open a store or to buy a small farm. Although many immigrants were illiterate in their native land, they acquired reading and writing skills in America, which in time enabled them to move into more highly paid jobs. By the 1940s, many Macedonian Americans had opened small businesses such as stores or bakeries. In the city of Pittsburgh alone, 33 Bulgarian and Macedonian bakeries were in business during this period.
With access to education, subsequent generations of Macedonian Americans have made careers in medicine, law, academia, broadcasting, and other professions, as well as in business. By the end of the 1900s, new immigrants brought more specialized skills to their adopted country, and individuals trained in the sciences, technology, and business have established themselves in those fields. One of the most prominent business leaders in the United States, Frank Popoff, who is president and CEO of Dow Chemical, is of Bulgarian-Macedonian descent. Another business mogul, Mike Ilitch (originally Iliev), began his career in the United States with a single pizza shop, which he built into the successful Little Caesar's franchise.
The long struggle of Macedonians to free themselves from Ottoman rule and to maintain autonomy amidst the political turmoil of the Balkan region prepared Macedonian immigrants for active political engagement in the United States. As early as 1908, for example, a group of 600 unemployed and starving immigrants from Bulgaria and Macedonia marched on Chicago's city hall to demand work. Such an action was extremely shocking at the time and the incident had little effect, but it indicated the determination of these immigrants to stand up for their rights. Like other Slavic groups, Macedonians tended to support leftist causes more than the general U.S. population, but few were outright radicals.
A commitment to pan-Slavic solidarity also contributed to Macedonian Americans' interest in Socialism. Macedonians had been traditionally friendly toward Russia, with whom they shared ethnic, linguistic, and church ties, and the American Communist Party was very active in enlisting their support for the Soviet cause. Official Soviet support for Macedonian independence further strengthened the bond between Macedonian Americans and Russia. The Socialist Labor Party of America, too, worked to gain Bulgarian and Macedonian membership, and published many newspapers and periodicals to promote their political education. George Pirinsky (born George Zaikoff), a Bulgarian Communist leader in the United States, was the most active leader in this cause.
During World War II, pro-socialist activity among Macedonian Americans and other Slavic groups intensified. On April 25 and 26, 1942 an All-Slavic Congress was held in Detroit, out of which was created the American Slav Congress. The Macedonian-American People's League was a member organization. Macedonian Americans attended the Michigan Slav Congress held in Detroit in 1943 and were involved in the creation of the United Committee of South Slavic Americans. Macedonian Americans also were attracted to the International Workers Order, a Communist front organization that included special sections for individual South Slavic groups. Throughout the war years, these groups criticized American foreign policy toward the Soviet Union, arousing the suspicion of the conservative political establishment. In 1948, the House Committee on Un-American Activities and the U.S. Attorney General accused the American Slav Congress and its affiliate groups of being Communist organizations under the influence of Moscow. For the next several years, Congressional investigations conducted a witch hunt against left-wing radicals, among them some leaders of the South Slavic groups. During this difficult period, many either chose to leave the country or were deported. Despite the leftist orientation of many Macedonian Americans, the vast majority of them, according to Prpic, were loyal to the U.S. government and found such political hostility troubling. They supported American involvement in World War II, served in the military, and worked on the home front to help the war effort.
Though many Macedonian immigrants were actively opposed to World War I, in which their homeland was occupied by Serbia and Greece, thousands of them served in the U.S. armed forces during World War II. Hundreds were killed or wounded on several fronts.
Macedonians in the United States generally maintained great interest in events in their homeland. Political strife in the Balkans and the Macedonian struggle for autonomy were frequent subjects of discussion when Macedonians gathered to socialize. They organized material relief for Macedonian villages, sending parcels of clothing and financial assistance to areas in need. They were also very active politically. During the 1920s and 1930s, increased violence in Serbian and Greek occupied Macedonia caused intense concern among Macedonians in the United States. To support the cause of Ivan Mihajlov's Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization, they founded the Macedonian Patriotic Organization (MPO) in October 1922. This organization, which originated in Fort Wayne, Indiana and later moved to Indianapolis, was dedicated to the "liberation and unification of Macedonia." Anastas Stephanoff became president of its Central Committee and Atanas Lebanoff was elected secretary. The MPO began publishing the Makedonska Tribuna ( The Macedonian Tribune ) on February 10, 1927. This weekly newspaper is still in publication.
Because of their cultural bonds with Russia and their appreciation of the Soviet Union's support for Macedonian autonomy, Macedonian Americans tended not to adopt the anti-Communist attitudes common throughout much of the American population. They appreciated Yugoslavia's official efforts to promote Macedonian autonomy.
Filmmaker Milcho Manchevski, born in Skopje in 1959, immigrated to the United States in 1982 to study film and photography at the University of Southern Illinois. After directing dozens of commercials and music videos, for which he became well-known, he made his feature film debut in 1994 with Before the Rain. A three-part story set in contemporary Macedonia and London, the film explores love and fate within the context of ancient Macedonian traditions and conflicts. The film won the Golden Lion award at the Venice Film Festival.
Nick Vanoff (1929-1991), born in Vevey, near the Greek port of Salonika, enjoyed a highly successful career as a Hollywood television and film producer. Vanoff was associate producer for such programs as The Perry Como Show and the Tonight Show. He originated several others, including the Bing Crosby Specials, the Perry Como Specials, the Phil Silvers Specials, Hollywood Palace, the Andy Williams Specials, the Sonny and Cher Show, and the Kennedy Center Honors Show. Vanoff was the creator of the comedy series Hee-Haw, which he later syndicated. He served as co-producer for the acclaimed film Eleni (1985), based on the memoir of his close friend Nicholas Gage, who grew up near Vanoff.
Other Macedonian Americans have affected television in the 1990s. Actress Starr Andreeff appeared in several daytime television roles, among them Jessica on General Hospital. Michael Stoyanov played the role of Anthony, a recovering substance abuser, in the NBC sitcom Blossom, which ran from 1991 to 1995.
The first editor of the Macedonian Tribune was Boris Zografoff, who came to the United States from Bitola to accept the position. He wrote and edited the paper's first issue, published on February 10, 1927, and served as editor for three years. Zografoff was admired as a talented editor with a sophisticated understanding of the Macedonian independence movement. His most renowned successor, Christo N. Nizamoff, worked for the Macedonian Tribune for more than 40 years. In the early 1920s, Nizamoff was a member of the Macedonian Press Bureau in New York City. He was the first foreign-born writer to be invited to join the Indianapolis Literary Club. Nizamoff was a founding member of the Indianapolis Press Club as well as its Man of the Year, and was elected to the Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame.
The most esteemed Macedonian American writer, Stoyan Christowe, was born in Konomlady, Macedonia, in 1898. He came to the United States as a child, and attended Valparaiso University in Indiana. Christowe published six books, including This is My Country (1938), My American Pilgrimage (1947), and The Eagle and the Stork: An American Memoir (1976). As a young man, Christowe identified himself so wholeheartedly as an American that when he returned to the Balkans to visit, he found it easier to converse with the Bulgarian King in English than in Bulgarian. In his books, Christowe explored both the process of assimilation and the strong ties that he continued to feel for his native land. In the late 1930s, Christowe moved to Vermont, where he served for 12 years in the state legislature.
Dr. Boris P. Stoicheff, a professor of physics at the University of Toronto who worked closely with American Nobel laureate Arthur L. Schawlow, contributed to the development of laser technology. Dr. Stoicheff worked with NASA on the Apollo space project.
Peter T. George, D.D.S., an Olympic weightlifter who became an orthodontist after retiring from athletics, has pioneered treatments for obstructive sleep apnea. He holds a patent for the Nocturnal Airway Patency Appliance (NAPA), a device used to prevent the stoppage of breathing during sleep. The NAPA also prevents snoring.
Macedonian Americans have participated actively in both amateur and professional sports. Businessman Mick Ilitch, who was born in Bitola, Macedonia, owns both the Detroit Red Wings, a professional hockey team, and the Detroit Tigers, a professional baseball team. National Basketball Association (NBA) hall-of-famer Pete Maravich (1947-1988), born in Pennsylvania to parents of Serbian and Macedonian backgrounds, scored more points during his college career than any other player and was named a three-time All American as well as the 1970 College Player of the Year. He went on to a professional career with the Atlanta Hawks, the New Orleans Jazz, the Utah Jazz, and the Boston Celtics.
Peter T. George, born in Akron, Ohio in 1929 to Tony and Para George (Tryan and Paraskeva Taleff) won three Olympic medals for the United States in weightlifting. He won a gold medal in 1952 in Helsinki and silver medals in 1948 in London and 1956 in Melbourne. Beginning his athletic career in his teens, George won five world championships from 1947 to 1952, and was middleweight champion at the Pan-American Games in 1951 and 1955. George was named coach of the 1980 Olympic team, but did not attend the games in Moscow because of the U.S. boycott.
Since the early 1990s, soccer in the United States has been greatly enhanced by the presence of foreign-born players, among them Jovan Kirovski, a U.S. citizen of Macedonian descent. Kirovski scored the winning goal in the British 1992-93 Youth Cup semifinal for Manchester United before joining the U.S. national team.
The Macedonian Tribune.
A weekly newspaper published since 1927 by the Macedonian Patriotic Organization. It is printed in Macedonian and English.
Address: 124 West Wayne Street, Fort Wayne, Indiana 46802.
Telephone: (219) 422-5900.
Fax: (219) 422-1348.
Bulgarian-Macedonian National Educational and Cultural Center (BMNECC).
BMNECC was formed in 1980 from the Bulgaro-Macedonian Beneficial Association, which had originally been established in 1930. The BMNECC offers exhibits, displays, and educational programs, maintains an archive of folk artifacts, runs a museum and library, and has done research on the contributions of individual Macedonians and Bulgarians in America.
Contact: Patricia Penka French, President.
Address: 449-451 West 8th Avenue, West Homestead, Pennsylvania 15122.
Telephone: (412) 461-6188.
Macedonian Patriotic Organization (MPO).
MPO was established in 1922 in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Its purpose was to advocate for the liberation of Macedonia, and it began publishing the Macedonian Tribune in 1927. Since 1991, the MPO has focused on increasing awareness of Macedonian history and culture.
Contact: Chris Evanoff, President.
Address: 124 West Wayne Street, Fort Wayne, Indiana 46802.
Telephone: (219) 422-5900.
Fax: (219) 422-1348.
Allen County Public Library.
The Fred J. Reynolds Historical Genealogy Department, the second largest genealogical repository in North America, includes federal and state census and mortality records, state indexes, Soundex, and Michigan state census data for selected years. It also contains passenger lists, naturalization records, city and town histories, military records and regimental histories, cemetery and church records, land and probate records, city directories, etc. It maintains the largest English-language genealogy and local history periodical collection in the world.
Address: 900 Webster Street, Fort Wayne, Indiana 46801; P.O. Box 2270, Fort Wayne, Indiana 46801-2270.
Telephone: (219) 421-1200.
Fax: (219) 422-9688.
Russian and East European Studies Consortium.
This organization administers inter-university academic exchange program with the University of Sts. Kiril and Metodij (UKIM) in Skopje, Macedonia.
Address: P.O. Box 872601, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona 85287-2601.
Telephone: (602) 965-4188.
The University of Minnesota's Less Commonly Taught Languages (LCTL) Project lists seven institutions in the United States that offer courses in Macedonian: Cornell University, Lawrence University (Appleton, WI), Ohio State University, University of Chicago, University of Kansas, University of North Carolina, and University of Virginia.
Kaplan, Robert D. Balkan Ghosts: A Journey Through History. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1993.
Nicoloff, James. Macedonia: A Collection of Articles About the History and Culture of Macedonia. Toronto: Selyani Macedonian Folklore Group, 1982.
Prpic, George J. South Slavic Immigration in America. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1978.