World War II Period – Macedonia Under Bulgarian Occupation
In the years preceding World War 2, Bulgaria was offering an alliance with Germany in exchange for the right to occupy Greek Macedonia. According to Bulgarian President Filov’s diary, as the result of secret negotiations, the Axis agreed to give Bulgaria Greek Eastern Macedonia and Thrace between the Evros and Nestos rivers and on March 1, 1941, Bulgaria signed the Tripartite Pact with the Axis. Since the Germans were still attempting to woo Yugoslavia, they made no concessions to Bulgaria over the Vardar region until the Germans invaded Yugoslavia in April.
In April 1941, without declaring war, the Bulgarians invaded Greece. The next four years were to be a period of unprecedented barbarism in Macedonia since the Turkish occupation. Without German approval, the Bulgarians proceeded to annex the region, forcing at least 200,000 Greeks to be refugees in their own country. True to their past, the Bulgarians either forced the Macedonians to switch ethnicities, or face expulsion and death. With pride, the Bulgarians were rejoicing over this situation, as the newspaper Zora gloated:
“Now that the Greeks have been expelled for good from these Bulgarian regions, our Thracian brethren return in masses to their ancestral homes” Zora September 3 1942.
Even the Bulgarian president didn’t conceal anything in an interview with the German newspaper Borsen Zeitung, November 11, 1941:
“In a few days we will begin with the colonization of the Aegean area. Thousands of Bulgarian families will be transported and settled in this area within the next few months.”
Just like their Comitadji predecessors, so fanatic were they in eradicating Greek culture, they would threaten, and attempt to bribe with food and medicine the local Greeks to convert nationality and become Bulgars. To complete their extermination they also began cultural genocide by destroying historical and cultural centers, the closing of Greek schools and forbidding the Greek language.
However for the Bulgarians, too much barbarism was never enough. They soon attempted to sink their teeth into the German and Italian controlled western and central Macedonian regions, were lived the infamous Greek slavophones. Through liaison officers, such as the infamous Anton Kaltchev, they were able to smuggle weapons to the slavophones to terrorize their Greek neighbors. Special organizations were established to organize them such as the Bulgarian Organization of Thessaloniki, where Bulgarians or converts were given privileged treatment such as food and medicine. The organization was also a cover for Bulgarian agents to penetrate the rest of Macedonia. Through their network, they formed the pro Bulgarian Ochrana paramilitary lead by Kaltchev, which waged communal war and burned over 40 Macedonian villages. However they were merely opportunists, who at the end of the war switched sides, and came under the leadership of Tito’s Yugoslavia. This catastrophic period in Macedonian history lasted until 1944, when Bulgaria found itself again on the losing side, and formally joined the allies on 9 September 1944 under the new leadership of the communist Fatherland Front government. In the meantime the Slav communists in Macedonia mostly under the leadership of Tito’s CPY began the next phase in Macedonian history whose result leads directly to the current controversy, the creation of a Macedonian nation.