First Printing and Controversy
Following the Treaty of Bucharest in 1913, the southern part of the so-called historic region of Macedonia was annexed to the Kingdom of Greece, which at that time it consisted a 10% Bulgarian (Slavic) minority of the region, consisting of 10% of the total population, into the Greek state. Under the 1920 Treaty of Sèvres, Greece opened schools for minority-language children, and in September 1924 Greece agreed to a protocol with Bulgaria to place its Slavic-speaking minority under the protection of the League of Nations. However, the Greek parliament refused to ratify the protocol due to objections from Serbia, considering the Slavic-speakers to be Serbs rather than Bulgarians, and from Greeks who considered the Slavic-speakers to be Slavicized Greeks rather than ethnic Slavs. Vasilis Dendramis, the Greek representative in the League of the Nations, stated that Macedonian Slav language was neither Bulgarian, nor Serbian, but an independent language.
The Greek government went ahead with the publication in May 1925 of the Abecedar, described by contemporary Greek writers as a primer for "the children of Slav speakers in Greece ... printed in the Latin script and compiled in the Macedonian dialect." The book was commissioned by the Department for the Education of Foreign-Speakers in the Greek Ministry of Education. It was submitted by the Greek government to the League of Nations to support its assertion that it fulfilled obligations towards the Slavic-speaking minority.
The book's publication sparked controversy in Greek Macedonia, along with Bulgaria and Serbia. The Bulgarians and Serbs objected to the book being printed in Latin alphabet, despite the Bulgarian and Serbian languages being written predominately in the Cyrillic alphabet. The Bulgarian representative to the League of Nations criticized it as "incomprehensible." Although some books reached villages in Greek Macedonia, it was never used in their schools. In one village, threats by local police led to residents throwing their copies into a lake. In January 1926, the region of Florina saw extensive protests by Greek and pro-Greek Slavic speakers campaigning against the primer's publication, demanding the government change their policies on minority education.
Professor Loring Danforth argues the Abecedar was printed in the Latin alphabet "precisely to ensure that it would be rejected by all parties concerned" so "it would not contribute to the development of ties between the Slavic-speaking people of northern Greece and either Serbia or Bulgaria." The Republic of Macedonia argues it demonstrated a separate Macedonian language and people existed in northern Greece in 1925, and the Greek government recognized it as such. Bulgarian authors indicate that this textbook was printed in order to mislead the international organizations that the educational rights of the Bulgarians in Greece are respected - in the moment when the Council of the League of Nations treated the question about protection of the Bulgarian minority in Greece.
According to Victor Roudometof, the incident led to significant change in the Greek government's stance toward Slavic-speaking citizens. Henceforth, they were deemed to be neither Serbs nor Bulgarians, and their difference was regarded as solely linguistic, not ethnic or political.
The first scientific review of Abecedar was made in 1925 by professor Lyubomir Miletich who treated this schoolbook as an attempt to create new, latin, alphabet for Bulgarians in Greek Macedonia.
Read more about this topic: Abecedar
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