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National Romanticism: The Formation of National Movements

Balázs Trencsényi
Michal Kopeček

Chapter II. Spirit of the Nation: Customs, Language, Religion

Letter on the renewal of the Archbishopric of Ohrid

Teodosij Gologanov
Traduction de Nikola Iordanovski

Texte intégral

1Title: Untitled letter, written by Skopje’s Exarchate Metropolitan Teodosij (dated 22. VI. 1891)

2Originally published: Slavko Dimevski, “Нашето минато низ документи,” in Разгледи, April 1968, pp. 996–1003

3Language: the original letter was written in Bulgarian, and published with a Macedonian translation

4The excerpts used are from Одбрани текстови за историјата на македонскиот народ vol. II., ed. by Ljuben Lape (Skopje: Универзитет Кирил и Методиј, 1976), pp. 291–296.

About the author

5Teodosij (secular name Vasil) Gologanov [1846, Trlis, near Nevrokop (present-day Bulgaria) – 1926, Sofia]: Orthodox clergyman. He attended monastic schools, finally that of the monastery of St. John near Serres (present-day Greece), and he became a monk in 1862. He was very active in the ecclesiastic-educational municipality of Serres in the 1870s. In 1885, he was appointed the Exarchate Metropolitan in Skopje. After taking up this position in 1890, he campaigned in favor of the idea of revival of the Ohrid archbishopric as a separate Macedonian church in which the Macedonian vernacular would be used in the religious service. Teodosij Gologanov established contacts with the patriarchate in Constantinople in an attempt to persuade its leadership to accept and promote the revival of the Ohrid archbishopric under the patriarchate of Constantinople but with an autonomous status. After the Greek newspapers prematurely broke (and distorted) the news, the Exarchate started proceedings for Teodosij’s dismissal. Teodosij’s last attempt was to contact the Vatican representative Augusto Bonetti with the aim of negotiating a Greek Catholic (Uniate) archbishopric in Ohrid to serve the territory of Macedonia. The Exarchate, however, with the help of the local Turkish administrative authorities arranged his expulsion from Skopje (1892). For the rest of his life Teodosij Gologanov was denied any higher office in the church hierarchy, and was never appointed again to Macedonian eparchies.


6The existence of an archbishopric in Ohrid dates back to the eleventh century. Within the Orthodox ecclesiastic structure it had always enjoyed a certain degree of autonomy. The number of its eparchies kept changing—with a tendency to shrink to the advantage of the Bulgarian and Serbian churches— but it kept the core of its property and its privileged status even after the territories under its jurisdiction fell into the hands of the Ottomans (at the end of the fourteenth century). Although the priests were of Slavic origin its higher clergy consisted of Greeks, and the Greek language was used in the liturgy. Nevertheless, the clash of interests over jurisdiction of territories and income brought the Ohrid archbishopric into conflict with the Patriarchate in Constantinople. The Patriarch pleaded for its abolition, charging that it had become an instrument of the enemies of the Ottoman Empire like Austria and the Vatican. The conflict was brought to an end by an order of the sultan of January 1767, by which the Ohrid archbishopric ceased to exist and the territory under its jurisdiction was handed over to the Patriarchate in Constantinople. After the creation of an independent Greek state, the church infrastructure in the territories still within the Ottoman Empire was used for strengthening Greek cultural domination over the Orthodox population. This was the pillar on which Greek political and cultural ambitions in European of the Ottoman Empire rested. This national program also encompassed non-Greek ethnic groups (Vlachs, Slavs, Albanians), the process being facilitated by the Turkish millet system, which identified members of any particular religious community with the name of the dominant, that is the titular nation. It was also very important that the designation ‘Greek’ had a socio-economic connotation, implying membership in a privileged merchant class—in other words, indicating that the person in question was not a peasant. Thus, after the formation of the Greek state in 1830, the regions outside its borders regarded as important from the national perspective, such as Macedonia—the ancient homeland of Aristotle and Alexander the Great—were given careful attention. Numerous schools and churches under the combined control of the Greek state and the Patriarchate in Constantinople were intended to strengthen Greek national identity in these lands. However, the Greek clergy working in the distant Slavic provinces of the Ottoman Empire must have felt complete detachment from their parishioners, with whom even basic communication was difficult; very often their only interest was to extort money through various forms of tax-manipulation. In such conditions, the ‘awakening’ of the Slavic subjects of the sultan was rather an emancipation movement against what was perceived as Greek intrusion into the religious and educational sphere. It was the Bulgarian commercial and educational elites who took the lead in the joint struggle for a Slavic church in the Ottoman Empire. With Russian support and the Turkish authorities’ policy of divide and rule, the Bulgarian Exarchate was established in 1870. Extremely important for Macedonia was the tenth article of the agreement, which introduced the right of municipalities to choose by a two-thirds majority of votes to which church they would belong. A Slavic church was exactly what many people in Macedonia were waiting for: in two decades the Exarchate had bishops in Skopje (Tur. Üsküb), Veles (Tur. Küprülü), Ohrid, Bitola (Tur. Monastir), Strumica, Debar and Nevrokop. Along with bishops a large number of Bulgarian schools appeared in Macedonia, since the Bulgarian church also organized education. The Exarchate seemed to be winning the battle with the Greek-dominated Patriarchate for the souls of the Macedonians, provoking the envy of both Greece and the young and ambitious Serbian state.

7There is no extant document explaining when and how Teodosij got the idea of the renewal of the Ohrid archbishopric. The only explanation might be that in Macedonia of the time the memory of this local institution was still alive and, due to negative comparisons with the Constantinople Patriarchate, became probably idealized. Gologanov might have been exploiting this type of popular feelings, probably cherishing them himself. His unexpected and surprising campaign against the very existence of the Exarchate’s presence in Macedonia and his promotion of a separate religious institution rooted in local ecclesiastic traditions were potentially very harmful to the Bulgarian cause in Macedonia, as represented by the Exarchate, especially since Teodosij not only spoke of ‘one corruption being replaced by another’ but also endowed the whole argument with national characteristics by describing the Bulgarian Exarchate as yet another foreign body on Macedonian soil. Teodosij’s efforts to exploit the stubborn loyalty of Macedonian Slavs to their regional vernacular(s) and traditions only highlighted the delicacy of the problem of the national, religious and regional identity (or identities) of the population of Macedonia. If the term ‘Bulgarian(s)’ certainly stabilized itself by the end of the nineteenth century, it was far from being capable of erasing from the symbolic field the name ‘Macedonia’ which continued to produce somewhat parallel political loyalty. Therefore, Teodosij Gologanov touched upon the very essence of the process of creating national institutions. Macedonian historiography, in its quest for all possible displays of local or regional loyalties and particularities resisting neighboring influences, could not overlook Gologanov’s abortive efforts. This episode was thus narrated as yet another autochthonous attempt to emancipate Macedonia, which failed due to interference of the expansionistic neighbors. As for analogies—the present archbishopric of the Republic of Macedonia claims to perpetuate the traditions of the historical Ohrid archbishopric. Its very existence continues to provoke controversy (especially regarding its status vis-à-vis the Serbian Orthodox Church), and the wider community of Orthodox Churches does not recognize its autocephalous status.



9To His Worthiness, Dionysus, in Sofia

10Skopje, 22. VI. 1891

11My dearest brother in Christ,

  • 1 Originally it meant all the productive population—i.e., those not part of the military class—that (...)

12Strange is the divine mind, and even stranger are His ways. Christ preached love among people and went to the cross for it, while we, in the name of Christ’s love and with its holiest symbol the cross, are spreading the greatest hatred amongst people and suppress them spiritually and nationally, persuading them that we do good. So our holy Exarchate, headed by the blessed Exarch Joseph I, does everything possible to persuade the poor Macedonian people that it has good intentions, that it cares about its present and future and wants to rescue them from the darkness of national unawareness and make them a people consciously Bulgarian. And it does not require much for me to persuade you, my dearest brother in Christ, that our holy Exarchate with its ecclesiastical and educational activity here in Macedonia is actually performing the most wretched task of taking away the name of a people and replacing it with another, taking away its mother tongue and replacing it with another, taking away all its national symbols and replacing them with others, all in order to secure for its government and its Bulgarian merchants commercial penetration into new territory. What would you call this, dear brother, if not a new slavery more terrible than the Turkish one? The Turks take the lives and properties of the rayah,1 but do not reach for the spirit. They destroy the body, but respect the soul. And our holy Exarchate kills the second, the lasting one. Is this a brotherly and a Christian relation?

13I write this to you so that you will wonder less about my previous letter in which I expressed my opinion that we, the clergymen who are Macedonians by origin, should unite and move our people to awake and cast off foreign rule, to throw away the Patriarchate and the Exarchate and unite spiritually within the bosom of the Ohrid archbishopric, their true mother church. Is it not about time to stop the national division of one and the same people only because one recognizes the Patriarchate, the other the Exarchate, and the third reveres Mohammed? Is it not about time to stop the hatred amongst brothers? And how can this be done, if not by having our people’s church, through the Ohrid archbishopric. I will be sincere, my dear brother in Christ, and tell you openly: we the Macedonians suffer less from the Turks—may the sultan live long— than from the Greeks, Bulgarians and Serbs, who threw themselves on our pitiful country like eagles on a carcass and want to dismember it (“…and they tore up your shirt, O Christ”).

14And since I wrote you this, I think you will understand me. I took on myself to renew the Ohrid archbishopric, and from that there is no return. I am not sure if I will succeed, because a lot has been done by our ‘friends’ to come up to this situation. But it is time to start the sowing. Some seed will fall on rock, the birds will eat some, but some will find a fruitful ground and will grow. Let me, if God so wills, be the first victim, but let that victim be useful for my people.

  • 2 Supreme Council of the Ottoman state.

15These last days I had a chance to take up some more concrete steps. You know that the Turks will never agree to our creating a new church. But on the other hand, they also do not like the Bulgarians. I had an opportunity to speak here to the vali [governor] and he promised me help at the Sublime Porte, if our new church will be put under the patronage of some other church recognized in the empire. Of course, dear brother, he asked that his services be paid, and I can’t rely on the local wealthy men, while the poor ones can give nothing. I took 200 liras from my subsidies and gave them to him. Now I think about checking how the Constantinople Patriarch will look upon my plan. I met the local Greek consul in the vicinity of the town, in a nearby spa, and expressed to him my feelings. I told him we were ready to renounce the Exarchate and recognize the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate if the favor is granted us Macedonians to renew the Ohrid archbishopric, abolished at the time by the forceful Patriarch Samuel III Handjeri [Hantzeris] with the help of the High Devlet2. We are ready to recognize the Patriarchate as the Universal Throne and obey it in everything, just as the other Orthodox churches do, but only if it has no right to interfere in our matters and if it registers the Ohrid archbishopric in the codex of the Orthodox churches on an equal footing with the others—everything to be the way it had been before. Graeca fides, nulla fides: so the consul made no response openly, saying only that he would inform the government in Athens so that it could make a decision. He did not forget to mention to me that the local Greek metropolitan Paisios should not be told any of this, because he would not agree to leave Skopje. For my part I said to him that he does not have to leave Skopje if only he agrees to recognize the Ohrid archbishopric, and why would he not do this when he speaks our language so nicely and on his mother’s side he is Macedonian. And not only this—now he has some 200 to 300 families in the town, while by then he would be metropolitan of all Christian souls there, so his bishop’s revenues would be ten times bigger. The consul did not respond to this, but only repeated once again that I should not speak about this with Paisios.

  • 3 A local Skopje notable.

16I did not believe the consul and did not want to waste time. Through Tome Janakiev3 I organized a meeting with Paisios and told him the plan about the Ohrid archbishopric. At first he started to argue. But isn’t he greedy like any other Greek?—for when I told him that we would leave him here in Skopje as metropolitan of the whole population, the man got softer and promised me that he would personally write to the Patriarch and if he agrees I would go to Istanbul and speak to him personally about the whole thing. I told him that for the majority of the eparchies we already have appropriate men to be metropolitans, and in those places where we do not have any we would accept Greek bishops provided they know our, that is, the Macedonian language. I was obliged to make this concession, because you know yourself that it is better to accept as bishops Greeks who speak our language than Bulgarized Macedonians who would make further problems. As for the Greek bishops, as we gradually remove them from office and we will appoint our men in their places. On the other side, the Patriarchate will agree sooner this way than if we turn our backs on them immediately.


1 Originally it meant all the productive population—i.e., those not part of the military class—that pays taxes and tributes to the Sultan, regardless of religion. Officially abolished in 1839, this term continued to be used unofficially. In the European part of the Ottoman Empire, rayah was generally identified with the Orthodox Christian subjects of the Sultan.

2 Supreme Council of the Ottoman state.

3 A local Skopje notable.


Nikola Iordanovski (Traducteur)

© Central European University Press, 2007

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