Bulgaria-North Macedonia | The Dispute over National Identity

In June 2021, Bulgaria again blocked the start of European Union accession talks with North Macedonia as part of a long-standing dispute over national identity. While Bulgaria argues that the Macedonians are part of the Bulgarian nation, the Macedonians argue that they have their own, separate national identity and language. So, what lies behind the dispute?

Hello and welcome! My name is James Ker-Lindsay. Here I take an informed look at International Relations with a focus on territorial conflicts, secession, independence movements and new countries. If you like what you see, please do subscribe. If you want more, including exclusive content and benefits, consider becoming a channel member. Many thanks!


From the very first emergence of the Principality of Bulgaria, the Bulgarian state sought to take control of Macedonia. In the 1890s the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organisation (VMRO) led efforts to liberate the territory. This was followed by several Bulgarian attempts to take Macedonia, including during the Balkan Wars and during the First and Second World War. However, following the end of the Second World War, Macedonia became a separate territory within Yugoslavia, then becoming an independent state in 1991. However, while Bulgaria was willing to accept its sovereign statehood, it argued that the Macedonians could not be regarded as a separate people. Instead, they should be understood as Bulgarians and that they speak a dialect of Bulgarian, something that the Macedonians themselves now fundamentally reject. In response Bulgaria has now blocked the start of EU accession talks until the matter is resolved.

0:00 Introduction and Titles
0:33 National Identity and the Bulgarian-Macedonian Dispute
1:26 Geography and Demographics of Bulgaria and North Macedonia
2:23 Bulgaria’s Attempts to Claim to Macedonia
4:34 The Emergence of Macedonian National Identity
6:39 Tensions between Bulgaria and North Macedonia
8:59 Bulgaria Blocks EU Accession Talks with North Macedonia
11:22 The Dispute over Bulgarian and Macedonian Identity

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  1. I don't even have words. I'm really confused how sometimes people have that STUPIDLY view. Before you start judging Bulgaria and Greece you could at least educate well about the issues between greece, bulgaria vs north macedonia. Do you really think that a country stealing history and teaching their kids that these countries that macedonia stole from are bad and unfair and

    fraudsters, after that burning their flags and offending the people that they're cruel and bad is ready to enter the EU? don't you think that this is very unrespectful thing to do especialy to one of the oldest countries in whole europe with great history and many wars and battles. Isn't the EU a peaceful union? I don't mind North Macedonia since it's peaceful and don't shout at Bulgaria how Goce Delchev is macedonian and the cyrilic alphabet was made in Macedonia which is ridiculous since Macedonia is 30 yo country btw. If they respected Bulgaria and Greece and didn't do anything wrong to them there wouldn't be issues between the countries and North Macedonia could be in EU now but instead they decided to hate on their own motherlands

  2. If Macedonians are Bulgarian why did Bulgaria commit war crimes against the population in Macedonia during WW 1 and WW2?

  3. Bulgaria never existed in the past because the Roman Empires never recognized such a thing and the Bulgarians are not related to the real Bulgarians who are Turkic people nor they speak the real Bulgarian Turkic language that is why they should be the last on the planet to talk about other peoples when they have no clue who they are.

  4. Born in Bitola and raised as Macednian but now know we really are Bulgarians . I wish that we can become one like we once were .

  5. Greece and Bulgaria are doing this only because there are native Macedonians who speak Macedonian in the whole region of Macedonia that is today part of Bulgaria and Greece not Bulgarians and not Greeks because these eu and nato countries don't want to give basic human rights to the native Macedonians.

  6. I think you are misrepresenting some issues here. For example the fact that Bulgaria is putting a stop on Macedonian EU road pretty much has nothing to do with Bulgaria, but rather with the lack of political will in the major EU countries to allow another poor Balkan nation to join the EU. Bulgaria here is merely the messenger, allowed to behave in an extremely irrational and borderline silly way. Imagine if Poland attempted to block Ukraine from starting the EU process unless Ukrainians recognized the fact that they are Poles speaking Polish language.

    If you need evidence of what im talking about, look what happened several years ago when Croatia thought it would flex its EU/NATO muscles over Serbia during the migrant Crisis: Croatian leaders claimed that Serbia was "sending" the migrants to Croatia, and completely closed the border with Serbia; when Serbian leaders said that they would do the same, Croats claimed that they would never dare because Croatia is EU and NATO member – but they were proven wrong as the counter blockade was set anyway. How did this "crisis" end? Angela Merkel called up Croatian prime minister and president and pretty much ordered them to end the blockade.

    Now if anyone here truly believe that EU wants North Macedonia to join the EU, and its just that these mean Bulgarians are stopping that, i have a bridge to sell you. A single call from Merkel and Macron would change this in about 5 minutes.

  7. This is absolutely ridiculous! Who are any of you to tell me what I am and what I can call myself! I’m a Macedonian from Macedonia, I can trace back to the early 1800s with papers that my great grandfathers then called themselves Macedonians and even further with the stories passed down through history. They where born on Macedonian land making them Macedonian. If you are born on Canadian land your a Canadian, if your born on American land your American regardless of your ethnicity. There’s been many rulers and different ethnicity through the thousands of years of Macedonia that enforced their rule on the country and trying to change the ethnicity of the people and the language, My ancestors could have spoke a different language at some point. Some people did, some people didn’t, who is supposed to know. The people who struggled and died to fight for what they believed they are………Macedonians from Macedonian land. I could not give a shit what people say otherwise. But I’m not going to let you tell me what the fuck I am. I’m Macedonian not, North and not Greek and not Bulgarian.

  8. Its shame you erase mostly of comments who came from Macedonian s.Did Bulgarians pay you to act like that?To take their side???Shame on you.
    P.s you now nothing about Macedonia and Macedonians,and it seems you don't wanna know

  9. All historical documents and archives didn`t recognize a country or kingdom called Macedonia! They all claim Macedonia as land of Bulgaria, Byzantine or even Ottoman empier! Alexsander Macedonian and his Macedonian kingdom had nothing to do with present slavic nation in Macedonia, because slav was emigrated in 400-500s, over 1000 years after Alexsander Macedonian death. How were you slavs when during time of Alexsander Macedonia, still weren`t slavs on the Balkans! He was hellenic king! Just accept your bulgarian blood

  10. Take a attention now,im Macedonian ,I mMACEDONIAN not tataro- bulgarian,there is no chance to be same nation because we r not!We have different language,diferent letter,different culture!

  11. I am not Bulgarian! Thanks God! This is non sense, fascism is back!!! 🥺 This is what they were in the past this is what they are now!

  12. I'm Albanian from North Macedonia, and a LOT of shit has been happening in this region recently. From Albanians and Bulgarians living together for nearly a thousand years in relative peace, to a shit ton of massacres in 1912 balkan wars, to yugoslavia taking the region and expelling Native Albanians from Manastir and other cities to Turkey and replacing them with Serbs, to stealing and falsifying history and making a fake country. Its only what the serbs know best and have been doing since they came to the balkans. The best solution is to divide VARDAR between Albania and Bulgaria and everybody will be happy.

  13. The Bulgarian ethnic character of Slavic speaking Macedonians is undeniable and proven by thousands of historical facts. The so called "Macedonian nation" is a creation primarily of the Serbian diplomacy and secondarily of the Greek propaganda in the region. The Serbs and Greeks used the term "Slav Macedonians" in order to conceal the existence of the Macedonian Bulgarians and eventually denationalise them. The founders of VMRO and its rebels were overwhelmingly indigenous Macedonians with a very strong Bulgarian consciousness as well as a great number of those people held very high positions in the Bulgarian state including the army, politics, arts, educational system etc. As a Bulgarian from the Aegean part of Macedonia i'm in full support of the Bulgarian stance on the matter. There can be no compromise when it comes to the historical truth and the dignity of the Bulgarian nation.

  14. Because this social platform deletes links to sources, anyone who wishes can find enough information when searching by keywords.

    An entire nation cannot be called Tatar, just because it was joined by small migrating Tatar groups 5-6 centuries after the creation of their state.

    Second, even according to North Macedonian sources, the Slavs entered the South of the Danube only in the 7th century. At the same time as the Bulgarians. However, the Bulgarians are obviously such a backward people, who almost immediately managed to create a state. By the way, they created states wherever they went.

    And last but not least, again in North Macedonian sources, the Bulgarians are given as a wing to the southern Slavs … One wonders how you suddenly made them Tatars. Obviously, the development of North Macedonian history blindly follows the development of North Macedonian politics …

    By the way, the second link shows the coexistence of Antes (Slavic tribes) next to the Bulgarians. Not only that, but also the Slavs perceived the Bulgarians as liberators from the Avars and were in alliance with each other.
    P.S. First map could be found on the website macedonia kroraina: World of the Ancient Slavs; second map could be searched as Persia 600 AD.

  15. For all the haters who have read history only in Serbian and written by Serbs …

    There are Tatars in Bulgaria who migrated a long time after the establishment of Bulgaria, but this does not mean that Bulgarians are Tatars. The Tatars believe that they have ancient Bulgarian roots and this is normal because one of Asparuh's brothers, more precisely Kotrag, moved north to the present-day territories of the Tatars after the Bulgarians were expelled by the Khazars. There Bulgars of Old Great Bulgaria mixed with local people in the same way they did on the Balkans.

    Otherwise, enough has been written about the migration of Tatars to Bulgaria, but I will repeat myself again that this is a small group of the population that has remained as a more closed community, which for the most part has accepted the Christian faith, but has retained other features of their culture and still exists mainly on the territory of Dobrogea.

    You can find more information by searching for one on the following topics:

    "After 1241, the year of the earliest recorded Tatar invasion of Bulgaria, the Second Bulgarian Empire maintained constant political contact with the Tatars.

    From the late 14th to the late 15th century, several groups of Tatars settled in the Bulgarian territory (then under the Ottoman rule) for various reasons. (Most were used by the Ottomans as punitive detachments to kill the local population and destroy Bulgarian villages and keep people in fear).

    The largest wave of emigration was during and after the Crimean War (1853–1856). (Romanski, 1917) "

    Please look at the Persian maps from the 5th-6th century and you will see on them that the southern Slavs and the Bulgarians of Asparuh are on the north side of Danube river at the same time. They coexisted there in peace. They enter Byzantine territory again at the same time as Byzantium weakened exactly as a result of its wars with Persia. If we assume that the Greek sources are not reliable, the Persian sources have no reason to lie in favor of the Bulgarians or the Greeks.

  16. It's normal for Western European to not understand what is this all about. I don't know why you started the story from the end of 17th century, when the territory of now days North Macedonia were Bulgarian territory since the end of 6th century. You've missed a 1000years of history! Probably on purpose! Also Ohrid ( town in North Macedonia) was Bulgaria's capitol city for many years 🙂 Before just 80 years ago almost everyone in the territory of now days North Macedonia identified themselves as a Bulgarians, and now they all disappeared 😏 How is this possible? Ask the Communists and be at least one time on the side of the truth!

  17. One of the biggest paradoxes i have encountered.On the one hand Bulgaria seeks to show that Macedonians and Bulgarians are the same people.Yet on the other hand they claim that Macedonians have been apropriating Bulgarian history.How can you apropriate something if Macedonians and Bulgarians are really (suposedly) the same people?You can't have your cake and eat it too.Quite the paradox…

  18. PLEASE! Give me a break! The Bulgarian Army stormed Macedonia, Raping and Pillaging and Murdering the Macedonian adults in an attempt at Ethnic cleansing. My Mothers parents were marched to Bogumila and Exterminated for only one reason, because they were Macedonian.

  19. I am from North Macedonia and I am 100% sure that we are Bulgarian even though i don’t possess their passport or have ever been there. Unfortunately, many Macedonians will never admit this fact to them selves. Especially because many of their grandparents were killed by the Bulgarian army in WW2. I was doing a lot of research about the relations between this two countries and finally realized how twisted the history that we learn in Macedonia actually is. Hopefully one day we will reunite and stop this Serbian propaganda bullshit

  20. I have a question for you, here is an interview of a Macedonian journalist with the Bulgarian Foreign Minister https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wm7UqLM-mss&ab_channel=Agenda35 And here is an interview of a Macedonian journalist with, according to the Macedonians, the greatest Bulgarian "nationalist" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D_UMS01IuXM&ab_channel=%D0%90rmymediaBg I know you don't understand what language they speak, but please look at the interviews and notice how well they understand each other, it's one language, Serbian is different need a long time before answering . If you are correct you will understand how absurd the position of Northern Macedonia is, please watch these interviews where they understand each other perhaps better than American English and British English, it's just obvious

  21. If Bulgarians think that states and national identity should definitely be determined by pure ethnographic elements, then they should also support that the borders of Balkans should be a Mosaic of states like Germany was before its formation.

  22. What is North Macedonia at present – A backward former Serbian province, where communist dirty tricks are still respected!

    Unfortunately, turned into the poorest part with the simplest and most uneducated people at the moment of all in this former fictional federation named Yugoslavia.
    A nation kept in poverty and stolen from Bulgaria after the Second World War, with the "blessing" of the communist governments in Bulgaria and Russia. A lost Bulgarian land and a Bulgarian population, given as an unexpected gift to the greedy and complexed Serbian communists of Tito!

    The fundamental question is:
    What can we expect then today from these Janissaries, who are directed against Bulgaria like rabid dogs in the years after 1944?!?

    A Brainwashed Army of Zombies with lost identity and mind, soaked to madness with heavy Anti-Bulgarian Macedonianism, a dirty propaganda of Serbian Chauvinism. All of them long ago betrayed their ancestors with the only main purpose, to serve the communist elite of the former Yugoslavia.
    These same lost souls, all still living in a rather backward and satanic state, a state turned into a dump place with the sole purpose of humiliating and erasing the Bulgarian population in the then Socialist Federal Republic of Macedonia and Yugoslavia.

    Only the truth spoken aloud makes us truly FREE!

  23. It's a pitty that you know absutely NOTHING about Bulgaria and its 3 regions of Moesia, Thrace and Macedonia. These 3 regions are connected with the 3 Bulgarian lions, the national symbol of Bulgaria since the Middle ages of our tsars, equal to Eastern Roman emperors since 705 A.C.,all the Bulgarian rulers were in a noble range more over the kings of France, Germany, Spain, England and the knyazes of the Russian dukes. About the last 2 centuries, you don't know what is IRO since 1869 of the greatest Bulgarian ever born Vasil Levski ("Basil the Lion") , IMARO since 1893 and at last IMRO since 1919 and more others like ITRO, IDRO IWRO "Vartop" in all the Bulgarian lands, occupied by Turkey, Greece, Serbia and Romania a century ago thanks to the shameful Paris and the sin-treates of wrong peace after WWI and WWII. It's a shame that there is nothing in Wikipedia in English about IMARO, maybe with a wrong tendency of evil, because there will be many great and small countries also to blame. … You may translate it only from German, even there is no Russian language, French too, English too, especially Greek language of the oldest occupiers of BULGARIAN lands who were the FOREIGN NON-EUROPEAN SEMITHIC BARBARIANS, not the LOCAL BULGARIAN FOREFATHERS since Ancient times, because they are also very badly responsible for this MACEDONIAN SHAME! Europe is responsible for the Greek lies and thefs of old Bulgarian history since Ancient times in Europe, because Greeks are not Europeans by their ancient roots in difference to BULGARIAN EUROPEAN LOCAL ROOTS! Balkans are the FIRST EUROPEAN CIVILIZATION especially the Bulgarian lands. Who allowed Bulgarian lands to be separated in 5 parts and also another part with the basic settlers in the area of Besarabia, splitted between Romania, Moldova and Ukraine. There is a GREAT INJUSTICE AGAINST THE OLDEST PEOPLE IN EUROPE, THE BULGARIANS, but it's a great disappointment that Europe does not know it! That's why the history of Europe is a great HOAX and about Macedonia it is just a little sparkle of this great Shame!

  24. Да не се караме да бъдем приятели не врагове и без тук харесвам и двете държави да се съюзим за приятелство 🇧🇬🤝🏻🇲🇰

  25. Macedônia 🇲🇰

    I try to live just like anyone else,
    Trying to go by living my truth.
    I give in to all of your pretentious bull
    And try to find a way to not bother you,
    But it seems as though everything I do
    Never satisfies you!

    I changed my name for you,
    I changed my colours too
    And now you want to shut me up
    And kill my song too.
    You push my words back in my throat.
    You let my soul die slow,
    Just so your ego would be satisfied.

    Macedonia will not die!
    Even though you might try,
    Never bring us down,
    Righteousness is our crown.

    ROMANIA supports you, we are all EUROPE, MACEDONIA deserves a voice!

  26. Imagine Americans to say that Winston Churchill is American. It is the same what Macedonian do with Bulgarian historical figures.

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