The multilingualism of the EU and the Bulgarian non-recognition of the Macedonian language

kica kolbe
Kica Kolbe. / Photo: Free Press Archive

If Bulgaria's formulation of the Macedonian language were to be accepted, the EU would include in its acts a relapse from the old imperialist linguistic aspiration, more vampirized today in the Russian aggression against Ukraine.

The extent to which the acceptance of the absurd request of Bulgaria, in the accession negotiations with the Republic of Macedonia to "patent" in the EU acts its right to the Macedonian language as a "dialect of Bulgarian", would directly contradict the foundations on which the EU rests, becomes clear when placed in the context of the leading imperative of European integration – "equality in multitude" as diversity of cultures, religions and languages. If Bulgaria's formulation of the Macedonian language were to be accepted, then the EU would include in its acts a relapse from the old imperialist linguistic aspiration, more vampirized today in the Russian aggression that is destroying Ukraine. Russia wants to "conquer" its "holy land" which it considers to have historically belonged to it because ten centuries ago the present-day Ukrainian state territory was the former "Kiev Rus".

The EU rightly responded to Ukraine's desire for candidate status, giving a signal to Putin that the EU does not tolerate such an opinion. At the same Summit, the EU disregarded that principle when it accepted Bulgaria's conditionality for the start of negotiations with Macedonia, allowing a "Bulgarian explanation" of "what is and whose" Macedonian language is. And the state that asserts the right to the language of another nation, in fact, asserts the right to own (or at least control) the nation that speaks that language. For to whom does each language belong? To his speakers!

Only Macedonians speak the Macedonian language. That means, accepting Bulgaria's statement would imply that Bulgaria, through its "genealogical" right to the Macedonian language as a "dialect of Bulgarian", is also "patenting" its right over the Macedonians. It directly contradicts the idea of ​​the EU. Paradoxically, then the EU on the one hand, with the candidate status of Ukraine and Moldova, demonstratively rejected Putin's theory of the "Russian world" and the "Russian holy lands", while yielding to the Bulgarian demands for the language and history of the Macedonians, they allowed it to enter into its acts statement when he talks about the theory of the "Bulgarian world" and the Bulgarian "holy lands", which is clearly inspired by Putin's imperialism and historical revisionism.

The EU, in fact, was born from the desire to finally overcome in Europe the ideology of "blood and soil" (Blut und Boden) which culminated in Auschwitz, but also in the colonial language philosophy of the former "Great European Powers". That is why Germany did not oppose the admission of Austria to the EU, even though the Third Reich occupied Austria (as Bulgaria occupied Macedonia) considering it a German country and a German language, because Austrians speak German. Germany learned the lesson from the Second World War and from overcoming Nazism and does not deny the Austrian identity (which was also legalized after 1945), but Bulgaria obviously still has to learn that lesson.

The idea of ​​Europe as a unification in a peaceful union arose precisely from the realization that the pernicious imperialist aspiration of the old European states to conquer and rule smaller and younger ones should be stopped and the principle of equality of states and cultures should be promoted. The EU has long lived multilingualism, because the language of each member is equal in all aspects and rights with the languages ​​of the other member states. This is guaranteed by the map of fundamental rights of the European association.

Multilingualism is the basic principle of the EU, which is outlined in the document on the way it functions, in articles 20 and 24, in the Charter of Fundamental Rights (article 22) and in regulation no. 1-58 of the Council for the Regulation of the Language Issue. All this expresses the fundamental credo of the EU - "united in the diverse multitude". These EU principles aim to protect linguistic diversity (that is, the uniqueness of each language) as the most important asset of Europe and its peoples. To deny the language of a people is a primitive act that contradicts the very idea of ​​literacy and education, of culture and civilization in general.

Language and languages ​​are living matter, they are deeply connected with the life of a community, with its spirit and creativity. The heart of a nation's language is its literature. He who designates the Macedonian language as his "dialect" insults the dignity of Macedonian literature and Macedonian linguistic creativity in general.

In order to strengthen democratic education and avoid indoctrinating students through nationalist historical narratives, a reform of history teaching has recently been considered in Germany, which was supposed to start with the French Revolution, because the idea of ​​a modern Europe like the EU is the result of that revolution. This means that today arguing about the nationality of Samuel or Charlemagne and drawing a conclusion about the present-day national consciousness of a neighboring nation directly contradicts the spirit of the EU and leads to historical anachronism. And Bulgaria not only practices that, but by introducing historical issues into the accession process, the relapse of historical revisionism into EU acts is introduced.

Today's French and Germans have the right to experience Charlemagne in their own cultural and identity context - as a member of French and German culture. Because it is significant for both historical and state traditions. Such an interpretation of Samuel would be "blasphemy" for Bulgarian historians, but someone should remind the politicians in Brussels that Bulgarians should also learn that lesson - to share history and personalities. But a shared or intertwined history is not a common history, so then it is not far from the concept of "identical" (meaning, non-existent) in Putin's vocabulary.

Russian and Bulgarian historians still understand national identity as "blood and soil", in contrast to identity as cultural memory, as understood by the European West. Jan Assmann, the famous German historian, Egyptologist, who together with his wife Alayda Assmann is known as the founder of the theory of cultural memory, was asked a few years ago what Europe should do to remain a leading star in the international community, he answered that Europe had lost it a long time ago that role, but today she was supposed to represent something, which is unique to her. First of all, Bildung – not only as literacy and scholarship, but also as knowledge of culture, one's own and that of the world.

Bildung is cultural remembering, because only a society that remembers can be renewed, transformed and progressed. The second essential aspect of Europe, Asman believes, are languages. Europe was to become the continent of multilingualism. Europeans should have spoken at least six languages. Instead of being inspired by such visions in the EU, Bulgarian politics chose to follow Putin's revisionism, which is destructive not only for Ukraine, but also for Russia itself. It is high time that they show their citizens the face of the EU embodied by people with incredible education like Jan Assman, who radiate dignity and admiration for foreign culture, with curiosity for the interlocutor and with remembering and knowing the most beautiful traditions of ancient culture . We are Europeans only when we possess that spirit, which in admiration of the achievements of humanity, accepts and respects every culture and every language.

The Macedonians may be the most fragile and the smallest people, but they now have the opportunity to show their greatness and remind the officials in Brussels that if they continue to leave Macedonia to the Bulgarian anachronistic policy out of opportunism, then they will be on the best way to betray their imperatives.

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