On Happiness and Nationalism

Bulgaria’s new salvo on the subject of the Macedonian language may repeat all of the old nationalist clichés – but it’s neither an official document nor representative of modern Bulgarian scholarship. Rather it betrays its own insecurities.

My favorite joke about Macedonian-Bulgarian relations goes as follows: a desperate Macedonian delegation visited God and tearfully complained about their fate. “Jesus, what’s the matter?” asked God. “Oh, Lord, why have you punished us thus? You arranged that all normal nations would evolve from apes; only we evolved from Bulgarians.”

Macedonian nationalists are unhappy with this joke (if they understand it), because it implicitly supports the idea that they are an ausbau nation. Bulgarian nationalists (if they understand the implication) are unhappy because they want the Macedonian nationalists to be happy with it. When they do not understand it, they are unhappy because it is a Macedonian joke (and it claims they have descended from apes instead of from Thracians).

Two things can be concluded and two things should not be concluded about Macedonian-Bulgarian relations connected to the present imbroglio with the publication of the Bulgarian brochure, On the official language of the Republic of North Macedonia.

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