A Bit of Greek History in Serbia

3 Jun

Buljkes

A discovery by Professor Vladimir Bosković of Harvard which he thought might be of interest to members of the MGSA, the Modern Greek Studies Association:

“MAY 1945 (image). The Bulkes (now Maglić) was a small town in northwestern Serbia, in the bend of the Danube in Vojvodina. Almost all the inhabitants were German colonizers. The city was given to the Greek political refugees, around 5000-6000 souls, with their families. After the December defeat, thousands of ELAS fighters went to Yugoslavia and settled in Bulkes. In May 1945, with a permission of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia, 4,650 members of ELAS settled in the abandoned village houses. Until 1949 Bulkes was treated as an extraterritorial Greek municipality on the territory of Yugoslavia, governed by Greek laws and using special Greek banknotes.”

Bulkes Greek Dinars (1945 – 1949), In: Greek Banknotes, <http://www.greekbanknotes.com/greek-banknotes/bulkes/> (20. V 2014). 

Milan Ristović, ”The Buljkes Experiment “Greek Republic” in Yugoslavia 1945-1949”, In: Annual for Social History, year IV, no. 2-3, Belgrade, 1997, <http://www.udi.rs/articles/The_Buljkes.doc> (20. V 2014).

Best,
Vladimir Boskovic
And a member asks:
Dear Mr. Boskovic
Since in Jugoslavia was already existing a “People’s Republic of Macedonia” (1944) , what was the reason of moving the Greek political refugees as well as the ELAS fighters (with their families and the kidnapped or not kidnapped children), most of which were “Macedonians” all the way to Voivodina ?
Why create a “Macedonian Diaspora” ?
Why not place the Greek political refugees and the “Macedonians” of ELAS in the newly formed “People’s Republic of Macedonia” in order to make it more “Macedonian” than ever?
Any reply would be appreciated.
 
Thank you
George Tsapanos
That’s not such a difficult question to answer, in my humble opinion.  First, it’s very ideologically questionable to assume that all ELAS fighters or members were Macedonians, or since you put it in quotes, let’s call them Slav-speakers of Greek Macedonia, though I don’t agree that their identity should continue to be qualified by quotes.  But this was a basic tenet or, rather, ideological ploy, of the Greek right during WWII and the Civil War: an attempt to conflate all Greek communists with Slav-Macedonians, thus killing two birds with one stone in essence, or marking them as double traitors; since they’re communists they must be Slavs and since they’re Slavs they must be communists.  So I would be very careful about falling into that trap.  Communism is not something inherently Slavic — which I’m sure you don’t believe — the way Greek nationalist propaganda tried to portray it on and off during the post-war years.  Ask the hundreds of millions of Slavic peoples who suffered most from that ideological experiment and they’ll tell you.
So we don’t have any real information on who these ELAS-ites who were settled in Bulkes in Vojvodina were ethnically or linguistically, at least not from the article that Professor Bosković sent out.
Then, the news item is a little problematically worded.  The German inhabitants of Vojvodina were not “colonizers.”  They had lived there for centuries because as you must know Vojvodina had been part of the Hapsburg Empire since Hungary was conquered back from the Ottomans in the seventeenth century.  They may have even arrived in the area at the same time that Serb colonists did from the south, or Old Serbia, during the so-called “Great Migration,”or may have even pre-dated them.  Germans were present even in the mediaeval Serbian kingdoms — Saši or Saxons — especially working in the silver mines of Novo Brdo in Kosovo and other locales that the pre-Ottoman Serbian kingdoms drew so much of their wealth from.  And I think that at the beginning of WWII, they were the second largest ethnic group in the region, after Serbs — or third, with Hungarians the second.
Linguistic_map_of_Vojvodina,_Serbia_(based_on_1910_census)
The other fact the article doesn’t mention is that all these Germans were expelled from the region and that many of Vojvodina’s Hungarians left, as well, after the war.  We don’t hear much about it but I believe that the numbers of Germans expelled from Eastern Europe after the war not only dwarfed the numbers of our tragic population exchange with Turkey in the twenties, but may have been even greater than the fourteen million  people who were dislocated as a result of the partition of India.  We’re just still a little uneasy talking about Germans as victims.
So that, as opposed to a poor region like Macedonia with a fairly dense population and an already slightly volatile Kosovo-like ethnic climate, Vojvodina was rich, fertile and had huge tracts that had been left empty by the departure of these Germans, and it probably made much more sense to settle these Greek communists there than anywhere in southern Yugoslavia.  Serb and Montenegrin settlers were also encouraged to come fill these now empty spaces of Vojvodina at the same time. 
And finally, Yugoslav ideology did not encourage the spirit of ethnic particularism, quite the opposite, so they would never have settled “Macedonians” in Macedonia in order to make it more Macedonian.
Does that help?
Nicholas Bakos

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

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