It has come to my attention that a few Skopje surrogates in Greece headed by Alexandra Ioannidou wrote an article of some type back in February 2018 insisting that the Skopjan speech is a language, not a dialect. The codification of an oral or written speech is a philological issue that follows a political decision. Linguistics deals with the vernacular of speakers of a specific region, a town, or even a neighborhood.

What is the difference?

Usually, I would not care about this, but when I read lame arguments from people who are educated in cognate fields of linguistics as philology and even applied linguistics in order to promote their political pro-Skopjan affinities under the cloak of science I perceive it as a personal attack on my intelligence. A true linguist knows that in a strict linguistic sense of the word there is NO difference between a language and a dialect. In order to support their views, Alexandra Ioannidou has brought up scientific issues of pronunciation in hopes that they raise a winning argument to support their political views. The author’s angle was philological at best with a fig leaf of linguistics under the burqa of politics.

The text below is for the benefit of those who might have gotten confused by the politically motivated nonsense of the people in question. I am giving an example of an issue in a more familiar setting to the Greeks.

The ancient Athenian grammarian Aristeas codified the Greek language, and to my knowledge, the whole process lasted about 20 years (285 -265 BC). At that time, over the Greek-speaking world, one would hear Ionic, Doric, and Aeolic as the primary forms of speech, but also the Doric Koine, Northwestern Doric, Attic Koine, and their linguistic offshoots.

The Macedonian Greek King of Egypt Ptolemy II sponsored the language codification project for strategic cultural and political reasons. Geostrategically speaking, a river and sea thoroughfare offer means of communication with other cultures develop trade, grow the economy, foster language promotion that in turn stimulate the foundations of cultural expansion advances people’s education. In essence, the sky is the limit of what individuals and societies can do.

Over the years, the product of Aristeas’ assignment developed to the point that the Greek language became the beacon of enlightenment to the world. One of the results of such colonization gave rise to the Latin alphabet as the result of such use of the language and culture of the colonists from Euboean town of Cumae (Κύμη), the spread of Judaism and Christianity, the emergence of the Cyrillic Alphabet.

Then darkness came to the land, the Ottoman Turk oppressed education in the local speech. It lasted until 1830. Governor Capodistrias ordered the establishment as Greece’s literary language the Koine dialect, which was already codified. In 1976, the vernacular was declared the official language of Greece, having incorporated features of Katharevousa and giving birth to Standard Modern Greek, which is used today for all official purposes and in education. That was also a political decision.

Instead of re-inventing the wheel, I chose to copy the opinion of the famous author and true linguist, Mario Pei.

Politically speaking, one might answer that a language is what is officially accepted as the national form of speech, a dialect what does not have such acceptance. This definition would eliminate as languages such tongues as Welsh and Breton, while Lithuanian and Lettish, not having been languages under the Tsars, would have become languages with the creation of the Lithuanian and Lettish Republics at the close of die First World War, and then would again have ceased to be languages as soon as these nations were absorbed by the Soviet Union.

From the literary standpoint, one might say that a language is a form of speech that has given rise to a literature, a dialect one that has not; this would establish Sicilian and Neapolitan, Ozarkian and Brooklynese as languages, while it would eliminate Sardinian and most of the languages of the African and Native Americans.

A third reply is that there is no intrinsic difference between a language and a dialect, the former being a dialect which, for some special reason, such as being the speech-form of the locality which is the seat of the government, has acquired preeminence over the other dialects of the country.

Actually, there is no clear-cut reply to the question. Even linguists shrink from answering it, and rightly. When a language is examined under the microscope, it is found to be infinitely diversified. There is one form of cleavage and stratification along social and cultural lines, which leads to the infinite gradations of standard tongue, vernacular, slang, cant and jargon. There is also a local, geographical division which extends not merely to regions and sections of a country, but also to towns and quarters of towns. Some linguists go so far as to assert that each speaker may be said to have a dialect of his own, as evidenced by the fact that his friends can identify him by his speech.

(Pei 1949, 46).

Whether a speech is a dialect or a language is always a matter of the criterion one uses. Alexandra Ioannidou chose the political criterion concluding that “Macedonian” is a language, not a dialect.

My background

Before I proceed, let me explain my linguistic background. I was born in an extended family of four languages with Greek being the fifth language as lingua franca. I learned the speech of the Bitola – Prilep, which to me is one of the South Eastern Linguistic Bulgarian group of dialects, from my maternal family from the day I was born. It was my first language, which I heard from my dearest mother. The first alphabet I learned was the Serbian based Cyrillic alphabet of Skopje even before the Greek kindergarten. As far as my mom was concerned, she spoke Srpski or Serbian as she used to call her speech. Why Serbian?

To begin with, at the time of mother’s birth the region of the FYROM was called South Serbia. Blazhe Koneski standardized the language under the auspices of the Marxist government of Yugoslavia. It was a philological product for political expediency.

The Past

Misirkov suggested that the new country, Macedonia, as visualized by the Socialist fighters of the VMRO and later resolved by communists should recognize the central dialect as its literary language. He did not suggest that the government assign the task to a pro-Serbian linguist who would take it away from the original tongue. I have no idea what happened to the – Шо праиш? Aрнo! (Sho prajish? – Arno!” (how are you?) of the Prilep-Bitola dialect. It has been replaced by the Serbian – “Kako si? – Dobro”. This only one small example of how Koneski had fixed the new “language.”

However, the language started as part of the Western Bulgarian group of dialects, and through the intervention of politicians, it was navigated towards Serbian away from the original speech. I would never forget my mother telling her first cousin in the 1960s, “What have you done to our language? In a few years, we will not be able to communicate any longer”.

The explanation of whether the language that my mother spoke was called Serbian or Macedonian exists in the annals of the Illyrian Movement. Dragutin Rakovac, author and publicist with degrees in law and philosophy, wrote a fascinating observation in his short essay entitled Mali katekizam zavelike ljude (Small Catechism for Grown Men), in which he remarked, and I am translating,

The names of peoples and languages may not and cannot be invented. The Croat, Serb, and Slovene names would, all else being equal, have the greatest right to the common appellation for our language and literature. These three names are hereditary in southwestern Slavia, as the names of the three main branches of the southwestern Slavic people. But we know that a brother does not tolerate a brother’s supremacy and experience teaches us that a Croat will never accept a Serb or Slovene name; a Serb will never accept a Croat or Slovene name, and neither will a Slovene accept a Croat or Serb name.

(Dragutin Rakovac, Mali katekizam za velike ljude, Zagreb: Illyrian National Press of Dr. Ljudevit Gaj, 1842, p. 16).

Members of the Illyrian Movement knew who the South Slavic tribes were. How is it possible that they missed the Macedonians and their distinct language? That movement gave rise to Yugoslavism and later to the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes. As it is apparent, ethnicities as Bosnian, Montenegrin, and Macedonian were missing. It was before Communism started implementing The National Question as the tool serving the national interests of Russia under a different administration.

In the sixth paragraph of the Resolution of the Comintern dated 11 February 1934 it is stated, “The chauvinists of Greater Serbia, referring to the presence of Serbian impurities in the language of the local Macedonian population, declare this population as one of the tribes of the single Yugoslav nation-state and forcibly serve it.” The tribes the resolution had mentioned were Serbian, Montenegrins, and “Macedonians.” They all spoke the Štokavian dialect during the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.

Alexandra Ioannidou also mentioned something about phonemes and alphabets. There is a difference between the standardized alphabet, which in theory represents the phonemes of a language, and the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). The standardized alphabet of any language is part of philology, although letters, in theory, represent phonemes. The International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA), is part of linguistics of that language, but it is not part of philology. Such an alphabet concerns the phonemes of a speech in any conceivable way regardless of how they are presented in the standardized alphabet. For instance, if we take the Greek language, we see that the alphabet does not include letters reflecting the sounds of λ, ν, μ, π, in λαλιά (lj), νιάτα (ŋ), μιά (ɱ ), ποιός (πχ). We can have the r flat or roll, and yet we use only one letter for both. Something similar one can say about the letter L that is known as dark L at the end of a word or light L at the beginning of a word. What can we say about the Pelasgian remnants found in the Greek language as σσ, ρρ? They exist, but their sounds are questionable.

I would expect some candor over the political poppycock from someone who pretends to be a philologist, even in Russian. Such a philologist remind me of a Croat teacher in DLI who insisted that Croatian and Serbian are different languages; then a Bosnian Muslim came into the discussion noticing that Bosnian was a completely different language from the other two. A young Muslim woman from Ženice, Bosnia told me, “Now that we have a country; we have our own language, Bosnian.” Furthermore, their governments of the former Yugoslavia had certified interpreters for communication among themselves. It is ridiculous.

Thus according to the specifications of Alexandra Ioannidou, a country has to have its own language. As late as 1920, an attempt was made to coin the term Unitedstatish to describe the language of the American Union (Pei 1949, 298). This means that if the U.S. Congress had succeeded in passing the law, the official language of the United States would not have been English, but Unitedstatish language!!! Under the same logic, Americans, Canadians, Australians, Irish, and all other people whose governments have imposed on them English do not have their own language. We have to push for Austrian and Swiss languages. I do not even want to touch the issue of Spanish, French, Portuguese, and a few others. My goodness, billions of people are mute! Are we serious? It is the ultimate extreme of nationalistic inferiority.

Some “linguistic” examples from my life

In the Slavic languages of the same group, in particular, the distinction between languages is more difficult than anyone can imagine. People can easily communicate after they dismount from their nationalistic high horse.

Nevenka was a Serbian refugee who lived at the UN housing at the Votsi area of Thessaloniki. She and my grandmother had befriended each other after an accidental encounter. All the years of friendship, Nevenka used her Serbian jekavski dialect while my grandmother spoke her native Bitola-Prilep-Veles dialect.

In my life, I have attended meetings of Serbs discussing matters with Bulgarians by using the kje (ќ) speech as they had mentioned, i.e., the Bitola-Prilep-Veles dialect. In my presence Croats from Zadar, Dalmatia spoke in ikavski with Serbs from Vojvodina in ekavski of the Što dialect. I have attended conferences and meetings of the people of Yugoslavia back in the 1970s and 1980s. Every single speaker spoke in his or her dialect. They just used the vocabulary of their preference without any problem of understanding each other and that included the Slavonic months that Croats use.

When I attended the U.S. Army certification course of translator/interpreter, one of our teachers was a Croat from Bosnia, one from Montenegro and one from Serbia.

In 1968, near the White Tower of Thessaloniki, where the touring coaches are parked, I spoke Serbian to a group of Slovak tourists who came to see the birthplace of the great brothers Cyril and Methodius. We did not have a communication problem.

In the late 1970s and before I joined the U.S. Army, two women, and I were talking as going to work at Sears Tower in Chicago. One of the women spoke Russian, the other one Polish, and I spoke Serbian. We had no problem communicating.

In 1973 waiting for the train for Zagreb at a Train Station platform in Trieste, Italy, I was speaking Croatian to someone thinking that he was a Croat. As we saw the train coming, the man asked, “Where did not you learn such excellent Bulgarian?” I was stunned. He explained to me that he was a Bulgarian diplomat. He thought I spoke Bulgarian as an educated Bulgarian would. We had spoken for approximately 20 minutes, and yet we never realized that we spoke different languages, both Slavic of the South Slavic group.

In 1984, as a valedictorian student of my Czech Class at the Defense Language Institute, Monterrey, California, I gave my speech in Slovak, not in Czech. To this day, I am the only one who has done so. Nobody had any problem understanding it. I spoke about the city of my birth Thessaloniki and the contributions of its two children (Sts. Cyril and Methodius) to the Slavic enlightenment. Its title was Solún, nevesta Termy (Thessaloniki, the bride of Therme).

In 1993 while in Sofia, I used my maternal dialect of Bitola – Prilep communicating with my Bulgarian collocutors as if we spoke the same language, we actually did speak the same language! I had attended my Sunday liturgy in Bulgarian; no sweat.

I know a woman who works as a cashier in a grocery store nearby; she is from Petrich, Bulgaria. One day I spoke to her in the central Skopjan dialect, per Misirkov. She said to me that my Bulgarian reminded her of her grandmother. To me, it was a compliment.

Politics is Perception

Nevertheless, the issue that Alexandra Ioannidou has raised is not linguistic; it is philological, which means very political. They have made evident that their concern was strictly political as they allied with gods and demons defending not their own country’s national interests and national security, but the adversary’s national interests acting as Skopje’s fifth phalanx and proxies.

Politics is perception. The nationalistic overtones as Alexandra Ioannidou and the Skopje surrogates put it, had to do with slogans like Η Μακεδονία είναι μία και είναι ελληνική. Such slogans perhaps facilitated more Skopje’s positions internationally than strengthening Greece’s rights. Although I fully understand the meaning of “Macedonia is one, and it is Greek,” because I have read Strabo (Ἐστι µέν οὖν Ἑλλάς καί ἡ Μακεδονία), billions of people around the world might have thought that the Greeks wanted to annex Skopje. After all, the Republic of Skopje is known to be called “Macedonia” all over the world for 30 years now.

The idea was not to hide into our shell ignoring the world, nor was it a psychological mirror image of the world, i.e., since we see it our way, everyone else sees it likewise. The whole idea was to win both the hearts and minds of the world. Slogans that emanate nationalistic and expansionistic overtones as historically correct, as they were, hindered our objective. A very slight change in the wording would make the essential vital difference. Perhaps, the organizers should consult people who understand advertising and how the market works to prepare slogans that sway people to their destined target.

Nevertheless, I would not be hastened to blame the demonstrators whose region and indeed the country are under attack for the failure of the organizers (leadership and sponsors) of such demonstrations. To me, it is a patriotic sentiment expressed in a misguided mode. In the article by Alexandra Ioannidou, I had not read anything that condemned the truly irredentist slogans, maps, photographs by the WMC, UMD, and other Skopjan Organizations. I am not even touching the issue of Skopje’s official violations of articles 2, 3, 4, 6.2, 7.1, 7.2, 11.1 of the Interim Accord or pre-Agreement if you wish, which include the antiquization project regardless of the intended purpose, always according to Skopje.

As I started writing this paper, Skopje’s Prime Minister has already violated Article 4.3 of the Prespes Agreement (The ink is not dry yet.), article 6.2 of the Interim Agreement, and the Article 2.4 of the UN Charter.

I do agree with Alexandra Ioannidou that the acronym The FYROM was stupid, but not for the reasons they think. It is downright stupid knowing how the International Law works. Greek diplomacy should have known better. The termination of the acronym, i.e., Macedonia gave the right to Skopje to maintain it in the final name. It was also the name responsible for the whole world to call Skopje, Macedonia. It was not an accident that Mr. Vasilakis an excellent diplomat and negotiator back in the 1990s had started pushing for the name Republic of Macedonia (Skopje) under the precedent principle of Republic of the Congo (Brazzaville) and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Kinshasa). The argument was simple, “since Greece had accepted the word Macedonia in the Interim Agreement, it shall accept it in the final name. International Law is based on the principle of stare decisis; once a country accepts something, it establishes a new reality even if in the future the new reality proves impractical or detrimental to the country at hand leading to various troubles or being impossible for it to carry on without further complications. We all see the complications now.

The other issue is that people tend to simplify official names of countries that look complex, names such as United States of Brazil, United States of Mexico, and United States of America to respectively Brazil, Mexico, and America. They did the same with Skopje’s stupid acronym.

Many years ago, I read an article of Nova Makedonija in which a journalist was asking, “Who has ever heard a country to adopt the name of its Capital?” The journalist had never heard countries such as Mexico and Panama that took their name from their Capital. Both cities, Mexico and Panama, preexisted the countries and their names.

Greek blogs very irresponsibly did everything possible to fall for any sensationalist trash prepared by the propaganda experts of Skopje and its diaspora that read online pushing people to react taking away the attention of the Greek population from the real issues of national interests to one shoddy information or another. The sensationalist trash of the Greek blogs, in reality, was a manufactured compost.

Finally, Greek Mass Media recklessly filtered the thoughts, mouths, and hands of those few Greek Vouleftes who wanted to mention something sensible away from the rubbish of their party line. As if they were scandalmonger tabloids, the Mass Media seeking political dirt in order to improve their ratings and revenue started calling such Vouleftes undignified and pejorative names as “dolphins” who wanted to take over the leadership of a Party even when the so-called leadership stank. Obviously, for these media, Article 60.1 of the Greek Constitution is subject to lavatory use.

Misirkov and Today’s Reality

Misirkov, the so-called Father of Macedonism, wrote a book On Macedonian Matters, and some articles and essays. One of his essays and two articles in addition to the book are pertinent to this article.

One of these essays On the Significance of The Moravian or Resavian Dialect for Contemporary and Historical Ethnography in the Balkan Peninsula offers scientific arguments that Alexandra Ioannidou in Greece forgot to mention. It is about the Resavian dialect the phonemes of which coincide with the central dialect of the FYROM.

Although the book On Macedonian Matters originally was published in the late autumn of 1903, there are certain words and expressions that suggest some redactions, at least three times. One emerged after 1914. The second redaction occurred after May 1919, i.e., after the formation of the Third or Communist International Association aka Comintern and the third modification ensued after July 1924, i.e., publication of the III Communist International, Fifth Congress Resolution on National Question in Central Europe and Balkans – The Balkans: Macedonian and Thracian Questions.

The above book and the two articles published in Mir in 1925 expressed one and one thing only. The separation of Macedonia from Bulgaria that Misirkov advocated had nothing to do with the existence of the Macedonian people as I am explaining below. Misirkov advocated the separation of Macedonia from Bulgaria in order to stop Bulgarian ideological interference in Macedonia that Misirkov did not like. I am quoting him,

To avoid copying them blindly and transplanting socialism into Macedonia instead of nationalism, as the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization has done. By divorcing our interests from those of Bulgaria we will be saved from aping the merciless acts of the Bulgarians and from having to accept their assurances that Bulgaria is our benefactor and Russia our greatest enemy; thus we will also develop a critical attitude towards our own actions and those of others

(Misirkov 1970, 111-2).

Misirkov used the phrase “Macedonian people” in the sense of a Slavic ethnicity, but he recognized the fact that in Macedonia other ethnicities existed, e.g., using the same demonym. Any time he wanted to clarify who were the Macedonians he was writing about, differentiated his “Macedonian” compatriots and of course himself as “Macedonian Slavs” (27 times).

As the Comintern was concerned, Hristo Andonov-Poljanski, a historian and former rector of the University of Skopje, gave the following explanation regarding the definition of the Macedonian people, “In Comintern papers, the expression Macedonian people cover all populations that inhabited the region of Macedonia. That is, all the inhabitants of Macedonia, irrespective of ethnic origin, constituted the Macedonian people” (Hristo Andonov-Poljanski. 1981, v. 2). Such a definition is also evident in Misirkov’s book in which he wanted to see Macedonia as a country with the Macedonian Slavs as its dominant ethnicity and the central Macedonian dialect its literary language for all Macedonia.

He also explained that on March 12, 1925 (Macedonian Nationalism) the Macedonian Slav intelligentsia was scientific in thought, Macedonian in conscience. The first term means that the Macedonian Slav intelligentsia was revolutionary socialist or communist if you wish and the second one means that the revolutionary socialist or communists were compelled to follow the edict of the Comintern issued about nine months earlier.

However, since Alexandra Ioannidou brought up certain phonemes to prove her philological points using some sketchy phonemes, here what Misirkov read into one of the meetings of the St. Petersburg Ethnographic Society and afterward printed in the journal Живая старина (Live Antiquity) of the Society VII Edition; III and IV Sections; V, 482-485 and also in the Bulgarian Review, V, volume I, September 1898, 121-127.

Bearing in mind the role that language plays in the classification of different tribes and larger units, as nations, I draw attention to research that I have done in the South Slavic transitional dialect between the Bulgarian and Serbian languages and currently very important because of the historical ethnography of the Balkan Peninsula. I mean the Moravian or (according to the Karadzić) Resavian dialect, to which more than two-thirds of all the Slavic population in Serbia speak.

The Moravian dialect covers the entire southern, eastern, and central Serbia to the River Kolubara and the tributaries to the left of the River Ibar. [The Moravian dialect] is very near to both Shopski and Skopjan speech indicating the ethnicity of the modern Moravian peasants. Also, taking into account the prevalence of the relationship of the spoken word, the latter understand the speech of those mentioned within the borders of the medieval Serbian kingdom. It seemingly gives us knowledge of the ethnicity of the Slavic tribes, which composed of the kingdom.

Here is what Misirkov articulated:

Instead of the Old Slavonic also known as the Old Bulgarian nasal sound ь as in ръкa, мъка, път the nasal sound converts to y ( = u) as in рука (ruka = hand), мука (muka = torture), пут (put = road).

The voiced л (L) does not exist anymore and instead of l turns into u, e.g., from влк, ябълка, вълна to vuk (wolf), yabuka (apple), vuna (wool).

Old Slavonic dark sounds ъ and ь are replaced by the sound ‘a,’ which, when it is not emphasized is pronounced on more or less between а and ъ, e. g.: пожаревац and пожаревъц.

Instead of the Old Slavonic шт (sht) and жд (zhd) the sounds of ћ (ć), i.e. between ts and ch; it is a voiceless alveolo-palatal affricate, and ђ (đ pronounce dz – дz), which people older than 30 years of age pronounce it softer, almost palatalized as к and г in кь, гь or к’ and г’) (Translation is mine).

Based on the above features of the Moravian dialect, its proximity to Bulgarian is higher than to the Serbo-Croatian language. The use [of the Serbian language] at the western limits of the medieval Serbian kingdom, the absence of accurate data on the existence of Serbs in the territory of [modern day] Serbia specifically those speaking the Moravian dialect until the founding of the kingdom of Nemanjić, and finally, because there is indirect evidence pointing at the absence of Serbian tribes in the area of Morava, I came to the following conclusion.

  1. That the modern Serbian Slavs from Moravian speech are closer to Bulgarian Slavs than to Serbo-Croats,
  2. That the ancestors of the Moravian Slavs were closer to those Slavs, which afterward formed the Bulgarian nation;
  3. The medieval Slavic kingdom founded by Nemanja enlarged but his successors called Serbians was formed by tribes closer to those Slavs, which was initiated Bulgarian kingdom than to Serbo-Croatian tribes
  4. That in the Serbian kingdom only the Nemanja dynasty was Serbian.

Misirkov, Importance of Resavian or Moravian dialect of Contemporary and historical ethnography of the Balkan Peninsula, Saint Petersburg, 1897.

The readers can draw their own conclusions. Misirkov continued,

“these principles should guide us in creating our literary language and orthography. These principles entail:

  1. The adoption of the Prilep-Bitola dialect, as the central dialect in Macedonia for the purpose of creating a literary language equally different from Serbian and Bulgarian.
  2. The adoption of a phonetic orthography with letters as used in this back and with minor concessions to etymology.
  3. The collection of lexical material from all the regions of Macedonia”. (Misirkov 1970, 202).

Regarding the speech Misirkov stated,

Each national language has its history and its contemporary variants, dialects, sub-dialects, etc., and our language is no exceptions. The history of our language shows that the present variants are derived from older ones, which is proof that they originate from a common Macedonian language, and that Macedonian comes from the South-Slav group, and so on. On this basis, one may determine which variant or dialect in any particular period was most used in the written language.

The history of Macedonian, like the history of other languages, shows that any dialect, regional variant or accent may be used in literature. The privilege any dialect or regional, accent may enjoy through being made the vehicle of literature as historians of the language might say is not granted on the basis of any aesthetic superiority it may have, but for purely practical considerations, i.e., as a result of historical and cultural circumstances.

(Misirkov 1970, 194).

Thus when Misirkov mentioned that the Macedonian Slavs could not understand the Bulgarian literary language what he meant was that they could not understand the Easter dialect of the Bulgarian language. The Eastern dialect employs free intonation and in general sounds like Russian while to long e of the Western dialect becomes ya in the Eastern dialect. That is (W) mléko = (E) mlyáko = milk. Under such circumstances, any illiterate, uneducated, or untrained Macedonian Slav was bound not to understand the new literary language.

I could easily contribute some truly linguistic information regarding the pronunciation of the letter ѫсъ aka юсъ большой (big yus) in Russian after its abolition from modern Cyrillic. Although it is not written anymore, it does affect the pronunciation of words that used to include it. This is only the pronunciation in areas mainly of Bulgaria and the FYROM, but also the region of Pirot. The original spelling was зѫбъ (tooth) and мѫжъ (man) although the pronunciation of the same letter differed. The actual pronunciation of the words зѫбъ (tooth) and мѫжъ (man) in the modern era is зъб, мъж, заб, маж, зуб, муж, зôб, мôж, зоб, мож, зêб, мêж, зъмб, мънж, замб, манж, зôмб, мôнж in different regions of Bulgaria, the FYROM, and Serbia transcending political boundaries.

One cannot judge the linguistic family of a speech and its relationship to other vernaculars by its vocabulary or even by the philological codification, but by its grammar and syntax. Notwithstanding, the literary language of the FYROM grammatically is identical as all Western Bulgarian dialects whereas its vocabulary has been “improved” by insertion of Serbian, Greek, and even Polish words in order to make it a language separate from both Bulgarian and Serbian. If such a move is not political, I have no idea what is.

Alexandra Ioannidou and Skopje’s surrogates in Greece got a chance to mock the Greek public since very few Greeks know the philology and linguistics of the Skopjan Bitola-Prilep-Veles dialect. Alexandra Ioannidou actually in her effort to describe the grammar and syntax of the FYROM literary speech she described the grammar and syntax of ALL Western Bulgarian dialects, but she coined it as “Macedonian.” In their mind, such a criterion makes the Skopjan dialect, a language. Whom are they kidding?

The arguments they have brought could buy them a bravo among the linguistically ignorant people. If we apply identical criteria to Greece, each village and town in Greece along with cities like Athens and Thessaloniki would end up having about 10 to 20 dialects each and not one of them could reach the point of a language unless the government of Greece designates which of them will be Greece’s literary language. That is a political criterion, not a linguistic one. Greece did the same at the beginning of 1982. Indeed each of us has his or her dialect.

Phonological differences make one speech different from another and in this case the grammatical or phonetic differences are in general the characteristics which one may apply or attributed on all of the Western Bulgarian linguistic group that includes more than 30 dialects. We could easily add the transitional dialects or the Torlak group.

Let me add something else that Misirkov wrote:

Hence one ethnic group does not choose a name for itself, but the neighbouring ethnicities make up a name for it, and the [said] ethnic group adopts it. It is the most common and very natural thing that one’s ethnic name first occurs in one of its neighbouring ethnic groups. So, the neighbouring ethnic groups are related like a godfather and a godchild.

(Misirkov 1970, 168).

I wonder why didn’t Skopje want Greece to baptize their ethnicity? If it were up to me, I would have baptized the country as Yugoslavonia, which would apply as the nationality to all citizens and Slaviani for the ethnicity of the Slavic population per Misirkov (Misirkov 1970, 168).

Alexandra Ioannidou and the Skopje surrogates in Greece missed Misirkov’s book and essays preferring Skopje’s absurdities only because they want to support Skopje’ positions, not of their birth country.


I found the explanations of Alexandra Ioannidou and Skopje surrogates in Greece very political, perhaps somewhat philological, but not at all linguistic. As far as linguistics is concerned, what the Skopje surrogates in Greece wrote was,

Από την πόλη έρχομαι και στην κορφή καν’ έλα
Ν’ ανοίξω το μπαστούνι μου να μην βραχεί η ομπρέλα.

As one of the greatest minds of all times put it, “It is no mark of a man’s intelligence to be able to confirm whatever he pleases: but to be able to discern that to be true which is true, and that to be false which is false, is the mark and character of intelligence” (Swedenborg 1912, 334).

If Alexandra Ioannidou and the Skopje surrogates in Greece are behind the recognition of the Macedonian language as referred to in Article 1.3c of the Prespes Agreement and whether the same people had influenced the process or deceived as volunteered experts the Greek negotiators and the political world, the only conclusion one reaches is that Greece lacked negotiating strategy and experts. The country was led like sheep to the slaughter.

I only hope that Skopje keeps violating the Agreement to the point that the blame game starts and the UNSC forces take some action against Skopje. With the present crop in the Greek Parliament regardless of political party, I cannot see any future government taking Skopje to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) requesting cancellation of the Agreement by pressing for the International Law Commission to investigate based on Article 2, paragraph 4 of the UN Charter or other pertinent articles of the Vienna Convention.

The question I have is, how is the Greek government going to implement the Agreement. As it is drafted is bound to fuel domestic instability considering the irredentism promoted by external third parties and extremist groups, it undermines Greece’s national interests, and leaves Greece’s psychological aspect of national security undefended; it is a clear threat to Greece’s stability. Usually, a country in psychological disarray seeks solace in some positive aspects of the tragedy. I have no idea what kind of a solace one can reap from the Agreement of Prespes.

Biographical Note

Marcus Templar is a Slavicist and former Code Breaker, and Principal Subject Matter Expert in Signal and All-Source Intelligence Analysis serving the U.S. Intelligence Community over 30 years. During his Intelligence career, he has supported U.S. Intelligence operations on a national level and served as a professor of Intelligence and National Security Courses in U.S. Intelligence Schools.

His academic research includes the political ideology of Bulgarian intellectuals after the Commune of Paris and the effect of their ideology to the establishment, development, and activities of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO) aka VMRO. The research also examines the organization’s activities in order to create a communist regime of Bulgarians in Macedonia at least 20 years before the founding of the USSR. More specifically, his work analyzes the relationship and interaction among members and factions of the organization (IMRO) with contemporary political, pan-Slavic movements and governments, as well as the organization’s political and terrorist activities.

Academically he is intrinsically interested in matters of national security, public governmental policy, and strategy.

Professionally he has been involved in the Order of Battle, Military Doctrine, and Strategic Culture of Turkey, Ukraine, as well as Counter-terrorism in the Horn of Africa.