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Makedonska Iskra Project Well Advanced

By Victor Bivell

printable version

The project to reprint the Makedonska Iskra newspapers from the 1940s and 1950s is well advanced with two thirds of the editions now available for free on the internet.

Sixty six of the 104 editions of Makedonska Iskra have now been scanned and uploaded to the www.pollitecon.com web site. All editions from October 1946 to December 1952 have been uploaded, leaving only the newspapers from 1953 through to January 1957 to be completed. Pollitecon Publications hopes to complete these in the next few months.

Makedonska Iskra was the first Macedonian newspaper in Australia and is an invaluable record of early Macedonian immigration to Australia. It also gives extensive insights into the key political events of the times, particularly the newly established Republic of Macedonia, then part of Yugoslavia, and the War of Independence in Aegean Macedonia which was part of the Greek Civil War.

A key feature are the several thousand Macedonian immigrants whose names are published in numerous and extensive lists of people who donated to Macedonian causes, including a hospital in Skopje and local causes such the newspaper itself.

The newspaper reported not only on community events in the capital cities of Perth, Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide but on a surprising number of much smaller centres such as Manjimup, Geraldton, Kalgoorlie and Bridgetown in Western Australia, Shepparton, Werribee and Sale in Victoria, and Richmond, Crabbes Creek, Queanbeyan, Broken Hill, Newcastle, Forbes and Port Kembla in New South Wales. Even tiny Captains Flat near Canberra had some Macedonian settlers.

The newspaper shows that the Macedonians of the times were surprisingly well organized politically, with national bodies and regular national conferences - a level of organization and unity not evident today. There is also early discussion about establishing the first Macedonian church in Melbourne.

Many of the Macedonian community's early leaders - well known names such as Kiro Angelkov, Stoyan Sarbinov, Risto Altin, Michael Velosky, Ilio Malco, Vasil Boshkov, and many others - feature regularly in the newspaper.

Makedonska Iskra also contains numerous reports about the newly independent Republic of Macedonia within Yugoslavia and its political and economic development. There are also updates on developments in Pirin Macedonia and Albania, and even a letter from the Macedonian community in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Perhaps most moving is the regular news from Aegean Macedonia, where the Greek Civil War was raging and many Macedonians were fighting for independence or autonomy. The many news stories cover the Truman Doctrine in Greece, napalm bombing by the British, key battles around Mt Vicho, Mt Gramos and Lerin, the repulsion of the British soldiers who witnessed atrocities against the Macedonian population, and the evacuation of the "detsa begaltsi" (child refugees) which interestingly is called the Markos plan after the Greek leader of the Democratic Army.

The newspapers also give some insight into the use of the "slav" terminology. The emigrant Macedonians always refer to themselves as Macedonians but there is widespread use of the term "slav" to refer to eastern Europeans. During this period in history the Macedonians were grouped under the "slav" umbrella by those whose political interests it suited, particularly the communists in Yugoslavia, Stalin and the Soviet Empire, and the communist led Greek Democratic Army. The term is clearly used by all these forces to create a sense of unity between the eastern European peoples, to give the Macedonians a sense of identification with these peoples, and as a differentiator from the Western capitalist powers.

Most interestingly, the term "Slav Macedonians" emanates from Greece and is almost exclusively used in reports from and about the Greek Democratic Army where the leadership was Greek. The Greek influence is clear, highlighting both the long term nature of Greek attempts to denationalize the Macedonian people and also the two faced support of the Greek communists who were happy to use the discontent of the Macedonians to further political revolution but many of whom, despite promising autonomy to the Macedonians, did not respect them enough to call them by their name.

So Makedonska Iskra makes interesting reading both at a personal level where people wish to look into their family history, and at a community level with a Macedonian perspective on key events in twentieth century Macedonian history.

The newspapers can be accessed for free at www.pollitecon.com and then under Reprints.

Published in Australian Macedonian Weekly July 4, 2006

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