Minorities in Macedonia in the Political and Constitutional Acts: From the 1903 Krushevo Manifest to the 2001 Constitutional Amendments


My topic is only aimed at portraying the most general historical context of the “Macedonian question” during the period from the Macedonian League up to the latest 1991 Constitution passed by the Assembly of the Republic of Macedonia as an independent state, that is to say, up to the 2001 Constitutional amendments. In the framework of the topic, I will view the relationship between the Macedonian nation and the other nationalities that have been living in Macedonia since the Ilinden Insurrection, through the period of the National Liberation War (1941-1943) and the “Communist period” up to the latest phase (1991-2001).

The new, historical, national and state-legal individualization of the Macedonian nation and state began in the second half of the 20th century (the Macedonian League, the Razlovec and Kresnen insurrections, the formation of the TMORO (VMRO) in 1893, and so on. However, it is right to believe that this process reached its peak at the beginning of the last century or, to be more specific, on 2 August 1903.

Every nation makes its own history. However, in each phase that is regularly marked as a synthesis of the political, moral and customary consciousness, as well as of the material and spiritual culture, or in Moreno’s words as the ‘spirit of the time’, the nation “discovers” “persons capable of adequately defining the goals and means for their accomplishment,” meaning, persons capable of evaluating the given historical possibilities and perspectives.

In the first phase, which we are conditionally going to refer to as “Ilinden,” these persons were mutually related in a wing or a faction of the VMRO, under the general influence of political persons like Delchev, Petrov, Sandanski, Hadzi-Dimov, and even Safarov. In other words, they were driven by the idea that Macedonia be an independent state and a legal subject. In the second and the third phases, there were the socialists and the communists who were active in this point towards the same principle for Macedonia to be an independent state and a legal subject, regardless of possible historical associations with other nations into a specific state and legal form. The last phase was characterized by persons from different political origins and in this aspect at least nominally they were operating in the spirit of the historical tradition for Macedonia as an independent state. A very general analysis of these historical facts from all these phases will demonstrate that, as regards the “Macedonians and the nationalities in Macedonia during the 100-year development,” the Macedonian political elite expresses an extremely well developed awareness of the multiethnic character of Macedonia. This is why it had the hunch as to in which way and character its state and legal space should be established. This awareness and the particular relationship is mentioned in all the political, state, and legal documents and acts that mark the peaks in the development of the “Macedonian question” in all its phases in the last century: The Manifest of the Krushevo Republic, 1903; the Manifest of the General HQ of the National Liberation War of Macedonia, 1943; The Declaration of the Anti-Fascist Assembly of Macedonia, 1944; the 1946-1974 Constitutions of Macedonia (especially the last from the “Communist era” in 1974); the 1991 Constitution of the Republic of Macedonia, and the Constitutional amendments, 2001.

As we know, one of the first political documents with the meaning of a constitutional projection in the recent history of the Macedonian nation is the “Krushevo Manifest,” in which the HQ of the Ilinden Insurrection addresses the Turkish and the other Muslim populations in the region of Krushevo with the purpose of explaining the goals and the importance of the “Krushevo Revolution” (in N.K Majski’s “note” in his edition of this document, he named it, “the Proclamation to the Turkish people in the Krushevo region”). However, it may look as if this document is not of great fundamental importance: it is an act of the local HQ of the Ilinden Insurrection from Krushevo; it is addressed only to the non-Christian population, to the Turks, and it is addressed to the Albanians (Arnauts) and to the Muslims (probably those who spoke the Macedonian language) in only one area. The purpose of this address was to neutralize their position in the current conflict between the rebel and the Turkish armies. Moreover, this document does not explicitly pretend to be a political platform or a constitutional act for Macedonia after the insurrection in case Macedonia were to get its autonomy. Nevertheless, the creator of this document (nominally the HQ of the Krushevo Insurrection and, in point of fact, the Chief of the HQ, Nikola Karev) could not, and he definitely did not want to, abstract the general ideas within the very structure of the Macedonian revolution at the end of the 19th century. The Krushevo Manifest – the Proclamation to the Turkish people in the Krushevo region – informs the Turks, the Arnauts and the Muslims that the insurrection has been raised against the Ottoman authorities and not against the Turks. “To raise a gun against you is disgraceful”; “Your property, your lives, your religion, your honor, are as precious to us as are our own”; “we will fight the Murtats (independent feudal lords)”; “You are slaves as we are, slaves to the emperor and his beys, masters, and pashas, slaves to the rich and to the strong who put on fire the empire on all four sides”; “We invite you to the joint struggle for rights and freedom”. They address the Turks, the Arnauts and the Muslims with the syntagms “our dear brothers” and “brothers by FATHERLAND (SM underlined) and sufferings.”

The basic point of the Krushevo Manifest is the struggle for “rights and freedoms.” The “right” implies nothing but “equality by and before the Law” for all the citizens, and the entire context of the timing and the document could imply, under the term “freedom”, nothing but national freedom that some ethnicities in the Ottoman empire did not have at all or was rigorously reduced for them. And a nation fighting for its national freedom cannot even think of suppressing or suspending the national freedom of another nation. The Macedonian revolutionaries at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century were very well aware of this. Nevertheless, the Krushevo Manifest, from the aspect of a modern multi-ethnic community, remains as a general historical road sign, normally in the positive direction.

Until October 1943, there is no other document of similar importance and character as the “Krushevo Manifest” in the struggle of the Macedonian people for national liberation. During the Second World War, in the world’s constellation of relations, as well as on the historical and political scene in Macedonia, a new political force – the Communists - emerges, and takes over the leadership of the national-liberation struggle. A faction of the once-upon-a-time Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO), now organized as VMRO (united), joins the anti-fascist struggle under the leadership of the Communists. So, in Macedonia, as in no other place, the struggle against fascism became also the struggle for national liberation. And the Macedonian revolutionaries of this time incorporated the Ilinden traditions in the foundations of the state that they created – Macedonia – in the frameworks of the federation of the Yugoslav nations. In its first major address to the Macedonians, in October 1943, when this movement already had dozens of detachments and battalions, and when it represented a respectable anti-fascist force in the Balkans, one of the most important institutions of the Movement, the General HQ of the National Liberation Struggle of the Macedonians, dedicates in its “Manifest” entire passages to the Albanians, the Turks and the Vllachs. In this document, the members of these national groups are called “brothers and sisters” and at one point the flag of the Krushevo Republic is placed on an equal level with the flag of Skender Bey.

This document was aimed at mobilizing the people in the struggle against fascism, but the spirit and the way in which the Manifest contemplates undoubtedly speaks of the fact that the communists were aware that the future state order would have to take into the account the multi-ethnic character of Macedonia (among the co-signators there is also an Albanian – a member of the General HQ of the National Liberation Army of Macedonia).

As we know, the National Liberation War (1941-1945) was a “moment” of an accelerated movement in the Macedonian political history that led to the constitution of the new-century Macedonian state. During a time period less than a year after the Manifest of the HQ, assumptions and conditions were created for the ASNOM (Anti-Fascist Assembly of the National Liberation of Macedonia). The Assembly was held purposely on 2 August 1944, the day the Krushevo Republic had been constituted, in order to underline the continuity of the struggle for Macedonian statehood. The Declaration of the ASNOM is of special importance for our review. The first point of this Declaration affirms that “all the citizens of the Macedonian federal state are equal in the eyes of the Law regardless of the nation …and religious practice.” The second point of the Declaration affirms that the “national minorities of Macedonia are guaranteed ALL RIGHTS TO FREE NATIONAL LIFE” (SM underlined) (ASNOM Collection p. 241).

We should not be confused by the fact that in this document of the ASNOM only two points speak of the “national minorities” (the Declaration only has 11 points and is written on 12 pages). It is important that the last Macedonian political revolution (1941-1945) did not “forget” that Macedonia is a multi-ethnic society. The importance that it gives to this sociological fact is shown by the place granted to this question in the Declaration (the first and the second points). The further constitutional-legal development of Macedonia will fully demonstrate the maturity of this prospect.

Those politicians and scientists who take the Krushevo Manifest and the ASNOM Declaration in regard to the nationalities as tactical “statements” of the Macedonian political elite in the given historical moments were, and still are, wrong. In Macedonia’s modern political history, from the end of the 19th century to the present, the Macedonian political and intellectual elite, in general, firmly believe in the multi-ethnic character of Macedonia, and therefore this elite has never demonstrated definition of its ideas for Macedonia as a state fully autonomous without “its compatriots” – the Turks, the Albanians and so on. This has been a firm and continued awareness since the Krushevo Manifest through the ASNOM Declaration up to the 2001 Constitutional amendments. The community, state and social, inhabited by several national groups, regardless of the numerous domination of one of them, does not have real chances without a democratic institutionalization of their mutual relations. This institutional frame is not given once and for ever, but it has the capacity to be adapted to the spirit of the time and the material possibilities. This awareness and this knowledge are incorporated in the political and intellectual elite of the Macedonian nation, and mutatis-mutandis they are also incorporated in the nationalities that have been living in Macedonia for centuries. Macedonia’s three generations, the pre-communist (the Krushevo Manifest), the communist (1945-1990), and the post-communist (the 1991 Constitution and the 2001 amendments) are driven by the principle of equality for all the citizens as a general democratic principle on which the world’s, and particularly the European civilization has been based since the French Revolution up to the present. The rights of nationalities in multi-ethnic societies appear as a part of human rights, as well as in the function of expanding the democratic values in the world both in the past and in this century. After the constitution of the Macedonian state (ASNOM 1944), a long period of a dynamic but peaceful life and development followed, from 1945 to 1990. During this period, the state dealt with the relations between the majority nation and the minority groups in its constitutions, or, to be more precise, with the rights of the minority groups in the state. We are speaking about the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Macedonia from 1946, the Constitution of the Socialist Republic of Macedonia from 1963, and the Constitution of the Socialist Republic of Macedonia from 1974. The first Macedonian Constitution (1946) dedicates two articles to the national minorities; the first, from 1963, defines these questions with two amendments and four articles in over 20 points, while that from 1974 establishes these contents in a separate chapter in 12 articles. It is not necessary to emphasize in particular that such an establishment of this complex social and political relationship is the result of several decades of experiences and the maturation of the state-legal and political awareness of the state. Normally, it has to do with various, numerous aspects of the question of “minority rights.”

The constitutional-legal order of the special rights of the nationalities (minorities) is directly established in concordance with the general development of the entire society and state. When we analyze this process from the years 1946 to 1991, we can speak without any doubts about a kind of vanguard of Macedonia as regards this question. It is about the Constitution of the Socialist Republic of Macedonia (SRM) from 1974. This Constitution, like those before it, also “codifies” the standard rights in the field of education and the culture of the minorities. However, its regulations go a step further. Article 1 of this Constitution in the Chapter, “Social establishment”, confirms that, “SRM is the national state of the Macedonian nation and the state of the Albanian and Turkish nationalities in it….” Furthermore, under certain conditions the equality of the languages of the nationalities with the Macedonian language is defined (based on these constitutional regulations the Assembly of the SRM opts for regulating these questions in the Book of Rules). The Constitution also defines the foundations for a proportional representation of the minorities in the bodies of the state and public institutions by stressing their equality as citizens and members of the collectivity. After a carefully completed research in other multi-ethnic states we can conclude that the 1974 Macedonian Constitution is listed among those constitutional documents that, according to Western-European criteria and standards, are close to the “maximum” in relation to the regulation of the status of the nationalities-minorities and their rights in this historical epoch. Perhaps the real living conditions were not or could not be on the level of the proclaimed constitutional principles, but the constitutional solutions made it possible for Macedonia to function as a stable multi-ethnic state until 1991. However, the question is whether and how much the new Constitution adopted under totally different historical circumstances has further improved the rights of the minorities or restricted those rights already obtained. Could all this be taken into account at a time of radical turnovers in the state and the society after the fall of the Berlin Wall, as well as at the time of a national delirium that covered our entire society? Instead of giving a direct answer to this question, let us have the facts speak for themselves, which are implied in the 1991 Constitution of the Republic of Macedonia and the 2001 Constitutional amendments. The 1991 Constitution of the Republic of Macedonia tried to keep to tradition in defining Macedonia as a multi-ethnic community in which, besides the Macedonians who make the largest national group, there live parts of other nations that enjoy this historical right (and capacity) also on other state and historical territories (Albania and Turkey). The 1991 Constitution defines this set of questions in 12 articles. The Preamble of the Constitution constitutes the Republic of Macedonia as a national state of the Macedonian people in which full civic equality and permanent co-living is secured for the Macedonian nation and the Albanians, the Turks, the Vllachs, the Romas and the other nationalities living in the Republic of Macedonia; human rights, civic freedoms and national equality are guaranteed; peace and the co-living of the Macedonian people and the nationalities living in the Republic of Macedonia are secured. Articles 7, 8, 9, 32 and 48 of the Constitution define the conditions for an appropriate use of the languages of the nationalities in the self-governing units; they declare freedom of expression of national origin, and the equality of citizens irrespective of their national background. So, there is a whole list of rights that could be called “Corps of rights of the nationalities in the Republic of Macedonia.” In general, in this respect a high level of continuity with the Macedonian constitutional, legal and political tradition (the Krushevo Republic Manifest, the 1974 Constitution and similar other historical and political documents) has been provided. Nevertheless, in efforts to underline the civic character of the state, the 1991 Constitution puts a stronger accent on the individual rights and freedoms of the citizens than on the collective rights of the national minorities. We assume the following reasoning: “In its development, the democracy will by itself decrease the importance of the collective rights at the expense of the rights of the individual.” It is obvious that this psycho-political climate that symbolized romantic optimism in the 90s led to some regression (perhaps without awareness of or taking into consideration the consequences) regarding the 1974 Constitution. Let me just recall that the 1974 Constitution proclaims in its Preamble that, “the Macedonian nation, together with the nationalities in Macedonia, created the Socialist Republic of Macedonia as a national state of the Macedonian people and as a state of the Albanian and Turkish nationalities in it…..”, while the 1991 Constitution proclaims that, “Macedonia has been constituted as a national state of the Macedonian nation in which full civic equality and permanent co-living is secured to the Macedonian people and the Albanians, the Turks, the Vllachs, the Romas and the other nationalities living in the Republic of Macedonia”. This is a significant logical and political, but also material difference (some would say that according to the 1991 Constitution the nationalities enjoy the status of “tenants” in Macedonia).

However, expanded analyses are necessary (especially of the documentation) if we want to understand better this “regression” in defining the Republic of Macedonia as given in the Preamble of the 1991 Constitution, but we are at least partly aware of the consequences (the crisis in 2001, the Ohrid Peace Agreement, and the changes to the 1991 Constitution with the amendments that arose from the Agreement). As we know, the Assembly of the Republic of Macedonia passed 18 amendments to the first Constitution of independent Macedonia during the year 2001. These amendments are related to the Preamble, to the use of the languages of the nationalities (their definition as an official language under specified conditions), to the representation of the nationalities in the state and public institutions, to the rights of the nationalities in the field of culture, and so on. As regards the way in which decisions and solutions are passed, especially in the Assembly, and which are related to a number of questions, mainly those referring to the special rights of the nationalities and to the election of some state bodies (for example, the attorney general and judges to the Constitutional Court) there is the principle of a special ballot for the deputies who declare to be members of the minorities. A comparative analysis of the 1974 Constitution and the present Constitution (changed with the amendments) will demonstrate that the only difference is related to the voting mechanisms in the Assembly on questions related to the rights of the nationalities and in the election procedure for some institutions.

The Constitution of a state reflects the given time and historical situation in a broader sense, and the time and the situation are today changing more rapidly than yesterday. The amendments to the 1991 Constitution fill in the blanks and, in the tradition stretching from Ilinden until 1991, the state is re-defined as a multi-ethnic and democratic community, which indeed are the general assumptions for its European perspectives.