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Graduate Defense: Nolan Gillies

March 4 @ 9:00 am - 10:00 am

Thesis Defense

Thesis Information

Title: Cutting The Gordian Knot – Macedonian Nationalism And Its Complicated Relationship With Bulgaria

Program: Master of Arts in History

Advisor: Dr. Nick Miller, History

Committee Members: Dr. Joanne Klein, History and Dr. John Ziker, Anthropology


Macedonian national identity is an extremely contentious topic in Balkan history. At different points in time, its validity as a political and state entity has been disputed, and its existence denied by all of its neighbors. Historically, Macedonia’s strongest detractor has been Bulgaria. The history of both nations is intertwined, and Bulgaria refutes Macedonian claims to nation and statehood claiming that Macedonians are truly Bulgarians who have been brainwashed by Yugoslav nation-building efforts from 1944 to Macedonia’s independence in 1991. As a result, relations between the two states have been strained for decades since the 1940s.

This thesis aims to track the origins of Macedonian identity through the nineteenth century to the present, and examine its relationship with Bulgarian identity. In addition, it leverages current theories of nationalism and ethnicity from multiple academic disciplines to explain why Macedonian identity resonates with its population despite concerted efforts by the Greek, Bulgarian, and Serbian states to assimilate Macedonians throughout the twentieth century. This thesis offers a new explanation of the relationship between Macedonian and Bulgarian history and nationalism without denying their interconnectedness, nor the agency of Macedonians in constructing their own identity.